Essential poll: three-quarters of voters believe cost-of-living crisis will worsen but majority give Albanese thumbs up

More than 60% also say they support the Indigenous voice to parliament, with the Liberal party at risk of alienating younger voters if it backs the Nationals’ position

Australians are bracing for increased consumer prices, expensive power bills and higher interest rates in the year ahead, but 40% of Guardian Essential poll respondents think 2023 will be better than 2022.

The nascent optimism as the summer break approaches comes ahead of a special sitting of federal parliament on Thursday to pass new legislation capping gas prices, which is the first tranche of an intervention to reduce power bills.

While the Coalition and Greens are telegraphing concerns, the Albanese government seems confident the initial gas price measure will pass.

The final Guardian Essential poll for the year shows Australians are in the grip of a cost-of-living crisis. Of 1,042 respondents, 81% think cost-of-living pressure will increase in 2023, and 79% think power prices will be higher. But more respondents (40%) believe 2023 will be better a year (24% say worse and 25% say no different).

With households and business struggling, the prime minister, premiers and chief ministers agreed last week to cap coal and gas prices, and provide additional rebates for Australians on low and middle incomes, as part of a $1.5bn intervention intended to shave hundreds of dollars off power bills.

The proposed price cap to be considered on Thursday has enraged the gas sector. The states will cap coal prices separately, and any cost sharing of the consumer rebates will be thrashed out between treasurers over the coming weeks.

While the energy intervention has generated noisy pushback, the poll suggests Anthony Albanese has political capital to draw on.

The new survey shows 60% of respondents approve of the prime minister’s performance. Close to half (41%) of respondents who identify themselves as Coalition voters in the Guardian Essential sample say they approve of the job the Labor prime minister is doing, as do 71% of Greens supporters and 88% of Labor voters.

The Albanese government is ratcheting up pressure on the opposition to support the gas price cap ahead of Thursday’s special parliamentary sitting. The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, declared on Monday if the opposition votes against the legislation, it will be voting “for higher energy prices, more pressure on our manufacturers and other industries, and no support for families to help with their electricity bills”.

Majority support for the voice

While the regulatory intervention in the energy sector has dominated the headlines as the political year draws to a close, there has also been significant positioning around the voice to parliament – the First Nations consultative body first flagged in the Uluru statement from the heart.

The federal National party confirmed last last month they will oppose the change. The Liberal party is still to settle its party room position on the pending referendum.

The new survey indicates the concept commands majority support, with 63% of respondents (down 2% since August) backing an alteration to Australia’s constitution enshrining a First Nations consultative body and 35% (up 2%) opposing that. That negative movement is inside the poll’s margin of error.

The voice also attracts majority support in all Australian states. Changing the constitution requires a double majority – approval from a majority of voters nationally and a majority of electors in a majority of the states.

The Guardian Essential poll indicates Coalition voters are more likely to oppose the change (54%) than support it (46%). But it also suggests the Liberal party risks further alienating younger voters if it lines up with the National party opposing the voice.

The voice to parliament is backed by 77% of poll respondents aged between 18 and 34. The Australian National University’s recent Australian Election Study – a research project that has assessed voting trends in federal elections since 1987 – found the Coalition attracted little support from millennials and generation Z voters at the May election. The study found the Coalition’s share of the vote fell in almost every age group but “especially among the youngest cohort of voters”.

While implementing the voice has majority support, the latest Guardian Essential poll results suggest most respondents (62%) have heard very little about it over the past four weeks (38% say they’ve heard a lot about it during that timeframe).

Respondents were asked questions this week to assess their level of understanding about the proposal. Just over half the sample (52%) said they understood the voice was a representative advisory body (38% were unsure if this was right) and a similar percentage (56%) said it would be able to provide advice about any issues affecting Indigenous people (34% were unsure).

Half the sample were unsure about whether the voice could only be abolished by another referendum in the event Australians vote to change the constitution. Similarly, 50% were unsure about whether the voice could reject legislation passed by the parliament.

Supporters of the change said they supported the voice because it would unify the country (39%), it would help governments make better decisions about First Nations policy (37%) and reflected the desire of Indigenous Australians for co-design (23%).

Opponents said they opposed the change because it would give one group of citizens powers that other citizens don’t have (49%), it would be symbolism (21%) and it lacked support from Indigenous leaders (20%).

Detailed information about the voice to parliament can be found here. For more information people can read the Uluru statement from the heart, the final report of the Indigenous voice co-design process and the joint select committee on constitutional recognition’s final report.


Katharine Murphy Political editor

The GuardianTramp

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