This week’s Essential Research fortnightly average has the parties at level pegging after two weeks with Labor leading 51-49, with Labor’s primary vote down a point to 37% and the Coalition steady at 42%. The surge to the Greens in Nielsen is not replicated, their vote up only one point to 10%, with Palmer United likewise up a point to 4%. Other findings from the poll:

• A semi-regular question on leader attributes records a slight decline in sentiment towards Bill Shorten since the question was last asked in October, with “intelligent” and “understands the problems facing Australia” down six points and “arrogant”, “superficial”, “erratic” and “narrow-minded” respectively up five, six, seven and eight. Tony Abbott’s ratings are somewhat more negative, with “arrogant” up four points and “out of touch with ordinary people” up five.

• Seventy-seven per cent oppose abolition of the minimum wage, with only 15% supportive.

• Eighty-four per cent of respondents were in favour of spending caps on campaign advertising by political parties, and 78% for caps on advertising by third parties. Opinion here was consistent by party support.

• Fifty-two per cent approve of the free-trade agreement with Japan, versus 13% who disapprove, while the respective numbers for free-trade agreements generally are 49% and 11%. Coalition supporters were most in favour on both counts, while Greens supporters were most opposed.

• Thirty-two per cent think Palmer United’s balance of power position in the Senate bad for democracy versus 27% for good and 19% for no difference. Major party supporters recorded similar responses, but 62% of those in the “others” category were approving.

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