A concerted push by federal Nationals to build more coal-fired power plants as part of the Turnbull government’s energy policy overhaul has been given the thumbs down by voters, according to the latest Guardian Essential poll.
The survey of 1,790 voters found that 64% would prefer new investment in renewable energy sources to meet Australia’s future energy supply needs, while only 18% would prefer new coal-fired power plants.
The survey, taken in the middle of the Coalition’s internal debate over the Finkel review of the national electricity market, also found that a clear majority of voters, 75%, would support a clean energy target if it didn’t increase power prices.
Forty-one per cent would support the reform if the price rise was limited to 5%.
But underscoring consumer sensitivity over expensive power bills, a majority of the survey would oppose a clean energy target which resulted in any greater increase in energy prices than 5%.
Younger people were more likely than voters aged over 65 to accept higher power prices courtesy of a clean energy target. Thirty-eight per cent of 18-24 year olds supported a clean energy target that raised prices by 10%, and 28% opposed it.
With the over 65s – 36% supported a clean energy target that raised energy prices by 5%, and 44% opposed it.
With the government battling internal divisions over energy policy and schools funding, which are expected to feature in Tuesday’s regular Coalition partyroom meeting, the latest survey has Labor retaining an election-winning position over the Coalition.
Labor is ahead 52% on the two-party preferred measure, with the Coalition on 48%.
That result has been stable over the past three weeks. The latest Newspoll has the Coalition behind Labor on 53% to 47%.
The government would have hoped for a budget boost to its political fortunes, but there is no sign of any solid bounce.
In this week’s Guardian Essential survey, voters were asked whether the annual economic statement had improved or worsened their perceptions of the government.
Seventeen per cent said the budget had improved their overall perception of the government, and 30% said it had worsened their perception.
People most likely to say the budget had improved perceptions were Liberal/National voters (29%), 18-34 year olds (22%), and those earning over $104,000 per year (22%).
Voters most likely to say the budget had worsened their perception of the government were other party/independent voters (51%), 45-54 year olds (41%), and Labor voters (39%).
Voters were also asked whether they approved or disapproved of the performance of the major party leaders.
Thirty-six per cent approved of the job Malcolm Turnbull is doing as prime minister (down 1% from last month), and 45% disapproved (down 3% from last month).
Thirty-four per cent approved of the job Bill Shorten is doing as the federal opposition leader (no change from last month), and 43% disapproved (down 2%).
Turnbull will doubtless take comfort from the fact Shorten has endured a five-point drop in the preferred prime minister rating in a month.
Asked to nominate the person they felt would make a better prime minister, 39% said Turnbull – which is unchanged from last month) – and 26% thought Shorten would be better (down 5%).
There was also a four-point increase in voters saying they didn’t know who would be the better prime minister.
The results were split by party, with 73% of Liberal-National voters saying Turnbull would be a better prime minister, and 55% of ALP voters saying Shorten would.
Greens voters narrowly preferred Shorten (35%) to Turnbull (31%).
With the coal and renewable energy questions, groups most likely to prefer investment in renewable energy sources were Greens voters, voters between 18 and 24 and Labor voters.
A majority of all demographic groups preferred more investment in renewable energy sources to coal.
But voters most likely to favour the construction of new coal plants were voters over 65, other party/independent voters and Coalition voters.