The Coalition’s traditional lead on economic management has been whittled away by Labor, as more voters say they believe the opposition would manage the economy in the interests of everyday Australians, according to the latest Guardian Essential poll.
The latest survey of 1,095 respondents also suggests voters want the Morrison government to increase the Abbott-era 2030 emissions reduction pledge, with 61% of respondents saying they want a higher 2030 target, and 39% saying it should remain a cut of 26 to 28% on 2005 levels.
That result follows Australia’s decision to sign up to a joint communique after the Cop26 in Glasgow pointing to a potential reconsideration of the 2030 target ahead of the next United Nations-led climate conference in Egypt. But only hours later, the government characterised the current pledge as “fixed”.
Australia has been widely criticised for a lack of ambition in the 2030 pledge.
Liberals facing contests with independents in the party’s metropolitan heartland are pushing the prime minister to adopt a higher target for 2035. Labor will also resolve its new 2030 target over the coming parliamentary sitting fortnight, with options ranging between 35 and 45%.
The Morrison government is clearly limbering up for a federal election framed around the Coalition’s traditional strengths of economic management and maintaining downward pressure on interest rates and cost of living.
But the latest Guardian Essential data suggests voters are already concerned about the rising price of housing, energy and food over the past six to 12 months – and 86% of respondents say the current government has either a lot or a little influence over the direction of household expenses.
As well as shaping an election conversation around the economy, Scott Morrison has also been trialling a political narrative championing personal freedom, and the need for governments to get out of people’s lives – arguments that relate predominantly to ongoing public health measures to suppress Covid, and to more prescriptive climate policy options.
But while Morrison is championing freedom to appeal to a minority of protest voters flirting with Clive Palmer or Pauline Hanson, the latest Guardian Essential data suggests the bulk of Australian voters – after close to two years of persistent government activism to manage the pandemic – are in a more interventionist headspace.
A majority (62%) agree with the statement: “I want government to have a more active role in managing the economy.” Asked about the current recovery from Covid-19, only 12% or respondents think businesses should navigate reopening after prolonged lockdowns without intervention, while 81% of the sample says government needs to work in partnership with businesses during the recovery.
Only 6% say the government should be solely responsible for managing the recovery.
The Coalition is, traditionally, solidly ahead of Labor when it comes to voter trust about economic management. But according to the latest fortnightly snapshot of voter sentiment, 34% of the sample nominates the Liberal and National parties as the party more trusted to manage the economy, while 34% trust Labor and 32% say there’s no difference between the major parties.
The Guardian Essential sample divides on that question broadly along partisan lines, with 70% of self-identified Coalition voters nominating the Morrison government as their preferred economic manager (12% say Labor), while 65% of Labor voters nominate Labor (12% say the Coalition).
Asked which party they trust to ensure the economy works in the interests of everyday Australians, 40% say Labor, 29% say the Coalition and 31% say there’s no difference between the major parties.
The data also indicates voters are already highly attentive to cost of living trends. With petrol prices nudging record highs, 77% of respondents say prices have increased either a little or a lot over the past six to 12 months (16% say prices have remained the same, and 6% say prices have come down either a little or a lot).
Petrol is a more hot button issue than housing prices, according to these survey results, even though house prices have surged in the major cities. While close to 80% have noticed an increase at the bowser, 47% say their rent or the cost of paying the mortgage has increased either a little or a lot (with 46% saying costs are about the same and 7% reporting a little or a large decrease).
Grocery and food prices are close to voter perceptions about petrol, with 70% reporting small or large increases in costs (with 24% saying prices are the same and 6% noticing decreases). With utility bills, 63% report modest or substantial increases (with 30% of the sample saying costs are about the same and 7% reporting decreases).