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The first Essential Research poll for the year – indeed, the first poll full stop – has the Coalition leading Labor 54-46, a marginally better result for Labor than the 55-45 on which they closed their account in 2012. However, the primary votes are all unchanged on last time: 48% for the Coalition, 36% for Labor and 8% for the Greens. This survey also features Essential’s monthly measures of personal ratings, which have Julia Gillard up four points on approval to 41% and down four on disapproval to 49%; Tony Abbott steady on 33% and up one to 57%; and Gillard’s lead as preferred prime minister nudging from 43-34 to 42-33. Whereas Essential surveys are normally a two-week rolling average of about 1000 respondents for each week, this poll is just from the 1014 respondents in the January 9-13 survey period.

Entertainingly, the poll also takes the opportunity of the Queensland government recent effort to liven up the silly season by gauging opinion on electoral reform, with results well in line with other such polling in the past. Support for voluntary voting is at 40% with 49% opposed. Fifty-eight per cent say they would definitely vote if it were not compulsory against 25% for probably, 9% for probably not and 4% for definitely not. Only 13% support the lowering of the voting age to 16, with 78% opposed. The poll also finds first-past-the-post is the favoured electoral system, but only if opposition is allowed to split two ways, in classic first-past-the-post style. Preferential systems are favoured to first-past-the-post 48% to 44%, but that includes 22% support for the existing full preferential system and 26% for optional preferential, such as operates at New South Wales and Queensland state elections and was advocated by Bronwyn Bishop last week.

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