Labor is comfortably ahead of the Coalition in the latest Guardian Essential poll, and just over half of the voters in this fortnight’s sample, particularly voters under 34, worry Australia is not doing enough to address climate change.
The latest survey of 1,089 voters has Labor in front of the Morrison government on the two-party preferred measure 53% to 47%, compared to 52% to 48% two weeks ago, a negative movement inside the poll’s margin of error that coincides with a messy period for the Coalition.
The Coalition’s primary vote is on 37% (down a point), Labor on 38% (up a point), the Greens on 8% (down a point), Pauline Hanson’s One Nation on 7% (up a point), and others and independent are steady on 10%.
While the fortnight’s poll suggests Labor would win any election held today, a position consistent with a long-term negative trend against the Coalition, Scott Morrison remains ahead of the Labor leader, Bill Shorten, as preferred prime minister 44% to 31%.
After a brutal few weeks where the major parties have been in full campaign mode, Morrison’s approval is steady on 43%, which is the same as January, and his disapproval is on 41%, which is up two points, while 38% of the sample approve of Shorten’s performance as opposition leader, up three points since January, and 44% disapprove, down three points.
With a new coal fight fracturing the government, and with the Coalition attempting to boost its political stocks by spearheading a negative campaign against Labor on border protection, voters were asked questions this fortnight about climate change and the resumption of partisan hostilities on boat arrivals.
On climate change, 62% of the sample agreed the climate was changing and human activity was contributing to warming, including 53% of Liberal and National party voters and 48% of people saying they intended to vote for someone other than the major parties in the coming election.
A majority held this view across the various age cohorts, including 72% of 18-34 year olds, 63% of 35-54 year olds, and 52% of people aged over 55. Some 27% of the sample said we were witnessing a normal temperature fluctuation, and 12% didn’t know.
Just over half the sample, 51%, said not enough is being done to address the risks associated with climate change.
Women are more worried than men (58% hold that view compared to 43% of men), and that view is also held by 46% of the sample intending to vote for a candidate other than the major parties. The concern is stronger with younger voters, with 58% of people aged between 18 and 34 having that view.
Coalition voters are more inclined than Labor and Greens voters to think enough is being done to address the risks (43% of Coalition voters, compared to 18% of Labor voters and 10% of Greens voters).
On border security, the sample was asked given the recent passage of the medical evacuation legislation and the reopening of Christmas Island, which Morrison highlighted with an expensive visit to the facilities, whether they were inclined to think the government had genuine concerns about boats restarting or was just playing politics in the run up to the election.
The sample split down the middle, with 52% believing the government was genuinely concerned and 48% thinking the Coalition was using the issue as a political ploy, including 19% of Coalition voters in the sample (compared with 69% of Labor voters and 71% of Greens voters).
Voters were also asked a number of questions about the trust they had in the major parties to manage various policy issues. The Liberal party ranked ahead of Labor on border protection (45% to 26% with 29% unsure), on security (42% to 26% with 32% unsure) and economic management (44% to 29% with 27% unsure).
Labor ranked ahead of the Liberals on protecting the environment (36% to 28% with 36% unsure), addressing climate change (36% to 27% with 37% unsure), safeguarding fair wages and conditions (46% to 28% with 26% unsure), as well as on health (39% to 32% with 29% unsure), education (39% to 32% with 29% unsure) and housing affordability (38% to 30% with 32% unsure).
The major parties will spend the weeks leading up to the budget out on the hustings, with the government hoping a combination of tax cuts and the promise of a surplus in April’s economic statement can help reboot its political standing ahead of the campaign, with election day expected late in May.
But disunity has been the overarching message from the government for more than a week. The Queensland Nationals have sideswiped their leader, Michael McCormack, and the former leader Barnaby Joyce has made it known he wants to return to the top job; Tony Abbott backflipped on his position to withdraw from the Paris accord, and was blasted by Malcolm Turnbull, and Julie Bishop declared she would have beaten the Labor leader, Bill Shorten, had her moderate colleagues backed her for the leadership last year.
The coal fight also persists in government ranks. Moderate Liberals have declared the Morrison government must not be in the business of building coal-fired power stations when the market declines to do so, while Joyce on Monday shirtfronted Morrison, declaring support for coal was National party policy, and the government should not “go silent or mute on issues we support”.
Joyce and McCormack are also at public loggerheads. With Joyce publicly signalling interest in resuming his old job, and National MPs concerned that McCormack is not cutting through with voters, the current deputy prime minister took a swipe after the backbencher argued the Nationals were not “married” to the Liberal party.
McCormack told reporters on Monday he understood what it took to have a successful marriage, which sounded like a pointed barb about Joyce’s personal travails which cost him the party leadership. Joyce later said he hoped the remark was a “faux pas”.