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Energy, equality and affordability become election issues

Our latest polling shows a number of new entrants in the list of important election issues, many of them issues that Labor has been running on heavily for a number of years. It also shows Labor winning the debate on housing affordability.

Political Research

Energy (as in renewable energy), equality (as in fairness), and affordability (as in housing affordability) all show up in our qual as being significant issues of concern. At this stage they are closely aligned with Labor voting intention.

Issues associated with an intention to vote Liberal continue to be government debt and the economy. The strongest issue for both Greens and Labor voters is climate change.

The emergence of energy as an issue suggests that the climate change argument is transitioning from one of principle - we need to do something about this - to one of practicality - how do we do something about this. As such it reflects fragility in the power supply, as well as the rising cost of power, and how this impacts on individuals.

While One Nation has been talking a lot about cost of living, and a number of commentators have been pointing to negligible wages growth since the GFC as a driver of voter disenchantment, cost of living does not show up in our polling as being a significant issue for many (some do mention it).

Security is another concept that has appeared in this most recent poll. Generally it is associated with terrorism or borders, and is twice as likely to be a concern of those prefering a Liberal government. Some of those preferring a Labor government also use the word in this way, but it is also frequently linked to energy security.

Labor and Greens voters are also much more likely to be worried about health and education than Liberal ones. One Nation voters are generally motivated by nationalist issues such as foreign ownership and Islam than any other group. Right to own firearms is also an issue in this group.

Apart from a change in the issues landscape, voting intentions are pretty much where they have been since the last election, and Malcolm Turnbull, while having a greater disapproval factor than Bill Shorten, is still preferred Prime Minister by a slim majority.

The qual suggests that strongest factor going for Bill Shorten in voters' minds is that he has policies. Turnbull's strength is that he is the "least worst" alternative of the two.

We surveyed on issues to do with housing. We wanted to know whether respondents thought it was a good time to buy, what they thought were the major issues to do with affordability, and whether housing was an electoral issue for them, and an issue for the country.

Housing Research

The housing industry has lost the argument on negative gearing with it ranking ahead of measures to increase supply. Out of eight possible measures, 24% ranked limiting negative gearing the top priority to increase affordability, compared to 20% ranking increasing supply as their top priority.

  • Taxing purchases by foreign buyers ranked surprisingly highly. It was third most popular first priority to increase affordability. However, when we looked at first and second preferences to increase affordability, 39% ranked negative gearing first or second, and 38% taxing foreign buyers. Supply was 30% on this basis, and increasing capital gains 28%.
  • Solutions which bridge the deposit gap were ranked last in importance. Only 3% put allowing first home purchases to use part of their super for a deposit as a priority in increasing housing affordability, while 5% nominated government first home owner grants.
  • Solutions are heavily influenced by voting intention. 46% of Labor voters and 45% of Greens put limiting negative gearing as their top priority. Increasing supply was the preference for 39% of Liberal voters. 25% of One Nation voters wanted to tax foreign buyers. (However One Nation voters’ top preference to solve housing affordability was to decrease the rate of immigration with 47% of them selecting this as their top housing affordability priority).
  • There was also a lot of pessimism about the housing market. Only 21% thought it was a good time to buy a dwelling to live in, and 20% a good time to buy a house as an investment. (However, our qualitative research showed that many people distinguished between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and the rest of the country, where it was thought that housing was more affordable, and maybe even cheap).


To download the report, click here.

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