The latest fortnightly poll from Essential Research finds 75% support for a net zero carbon pollution target by 2050, with only 25% opposed; 32% wishing to see coal-fired power plants phased out as soon as possible and another 47% wanting an end to subsidies and government support, compared with 21% wanting government support for both existing and new plants; and 80% support for the government preventing people entering the country from China due to coronavirus, with only 6% opposed. There are further questions and breakdowns in the report, but not a lot to get excited about on the whole – I can only beseech the pollster to bite the bullet and get back in the voting intention game.
To add more meat to this post, I will instead probe deeper into the report on the political impact of the bushfires published last week by the Australian National University’s Centre for Social Research and Methods. This was based on a regular panel survey conducted by the centre on a roughly quarterly basis, largely dealing with questions such as satisfaction with governments, public institutions and life in general. Since most of the respondents had also completed previous surveys, the report is able to explore changes in voting intention and attitudes over time. On this occasion, the survey was supplemented by questions on respondents’ exposure to the bushfires.
The study found a slump in electoral support for the Coalition, from 42.6% in the October survey to 37.2%, with Labor up from 33.7% to 35.8%, the Greens up from 14.4% to 14.7% (which is obviously too high at both ends) and others up from 9.3% to 11.2% (after excluding non-respondents, of which there were 5.1% in October and 6.6% in January). However, it did not find evidence that the fall in Coalition support was particularly pronounced among those who had been exposed to the bushfires.
Some of the factors that did associate with defection from the Coalition suggest an intensification of trends evident at the election, with university-educated voters more likely to have abandoned the Coalition and voters aged 75 and over less likely to have done so. However, the Coalition had a particular drop in support outside capital cities, though not in a way that suggested exposure to the fires was the reason. Out of the sample of 618 Coalition defectors, 43.9% supported Labor, 14.3% the Greens and 24.7% others, with the remainder uncommitted.
Consistent with the findings of the Ipsos Issues Monitor survey in January, the number of respondents rating environmental issues as the first or second most important facing the country rose from 41.5% in the October survey to 49.7%. For whatever reason, there was a significant effect here for indirect exposure to the bushfire (having friends or family whose properties were damaged or threatened, having travel plans affected, or exposure to smoke or anxiety), but not for direct exposure. However, as the report notes, what the survey registered as concern for environmental issues extended to blaming “the greenies” for the extent of the fires.
Support for new coal mines was down from 45.3% in the June survey to 37.0%, with the fall particularly pronounced among Coalition voters, down from 71.8% to 57.5%. However, those directly exposed to the bushfires who had expressed support for coal mines in June were relatively resistant to this trend.