Today we have some results on the public perception of asylum seeker policy issues from both Newspoll and Nielsen. When combined with last week’s Essential Report questions on the same issue, all three pollsters turn out to be pretty consistent with each other, only differing by amounts we’d expect from slightly different question wording. First up, we’ll look at two Newspoll questions, which pretty much answer the debate on whether it is people looking for tougher laws that are believing the government is doing a bad job on this issue, or whether it is people that think Rudd is replicating Howard.

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One quarter of those that believe the Rudd government is doing a bad job over the asylum seeker issue do so on the basis of seeing Rudd being too hard on boat people.

On the other hand, nearly two thirds of those that believe Rudd is doing a bad job on asylum seekers do so from a position of believing that Rudd is too soft on asylum seekers. That fairly convincingly ends that particular sub-debate on who is believing what and the magnitudes involved.

Next up, we have Nielsen and Essential Report on the question of the  government’s handling of the asylum seeker issue.

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This is probably the question where two of the pollsters diverged the most in terms of the responses they received – although these are pretty different questions. Moving on to a Newspoll/Nielsen head to head on Too Hard/Too Soft perceptions.

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These responses are pretty consistent between pollsters with a large plurality of the population believing that the Rudd government’s asylum seeker policies are too soft. Quite a small uncommitted result there for each pollster as well, suggesting people have long made their mind up on this.

Finally, a set of questions from Newspoll and Essential Report over which party would handle this issue best.

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The Coalition leads the ALP by a point when the public is given the option of None or Someone Else as alternatives, while the Labor Party leads the Coalition when the choice of both parties being “Much the same” is offered. While I’m sure Rudd would like the whole thing to disappear and is no doubt looking forward to the wet season causing asylum seekers to drop out of the news cycle, it isn’t the killer issue for the Coalition that it once was – like many things, incumbency sets if not the agenda, than certainly the tone.

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