NOTE: Server issues appear to have deprived the site of a day’s worth of data, hopefully not permanently. Here’s the post that went missing.

The latest weekly Essential Research poll shows no change on last week: the Coalition is on 45 per cent of the primary vote, Labor is on 37 per cent and the Greens are on 11 per cent, with the Coalition leading 51-49 on two-party preferred. These results cover two separate periods of surveying from Tuesday to Sunday over the previous fortnight. Essential tells us that 90 per cent of those polled in the second of the two periods were questioned after the government’s flood levy announcement.

The headline-grabber over the short term is likely to be a question on respondents’ favoured method of funding flood reconstruction, which was formulated before the levy proposal was announced. The question is entirely reasonable given what was known at the time it was framed, but is wide open to misinterpretation in light of subsequent events. As such, we can shortly expect to hear tosh of the “78 per cent oppose the flood levy” variety, based on the fact that only 22 per cent picked this as their favoured option. Since respondents were allowed only one choice out of five, we have an entirely predictable result in which no one option was heavily favoured. “Scrap or postpone the NBN” attracted 28 per cent (or 72 per cent opposed, if you want to be dishonest about it), but “sell off Medibank Private” got only 2 per cent. Of the 10 per cent who chose “raise taxes on mining company profits”, I suggest most would settle for the flood levy if that was what was on offer. Twenty-four per cent opted for “postpone returning the budget to surplus”, which neither major party is advocating.

Fortunately, Essential Research did add an extra question on straight approval or disapproval of the flood levy after it was announced, the results of which will be announced on the Channel Ten news this evening (UPDATE: Actually George Negus’s program at 6pm). So do tune in for that, and take with a grain of salt anything you might hear from the news media in the interim.

The survey also canvassed which services would be better run by the private or government sectors. The government was overwhelmingly favoured for utilities, roads, public transport, prisons and universities, with the private sector favoured heavily for broadband and property insurance, and slightly for health insurance.

UPDATE: Essential Research has now published figures on the flood levy proposal, and it’s bad news for the government: 53 per cent disapprove (29 per cent strongly), against only 39 per cent who approve (12 per cent strongly). There’s some consolation for the government in that 41 per cent of Greens voters oppose the levy, suggesting some of the opposition is coming from the left – the 24 per cent who favoured keeping the budget in deficit, who are presumably even less impressed with Tony Abbott’s approach. Opposition is strongest in New South Wales and Victoria, with opinion evenly divided in Queensland (although samples here would have been fairly small). Since 45 per cent of the voting intention results come from after the announcement, the poll might be seen to offer evidence that the overall effect on voting intention has been neutral, although it’s not much to go on. A Newspoll tonight would be nice.

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