Guardian Essential poll: Labor vulnerable to Dutton’s climate campaign as voters split on 2030 target

guardian essential poll: labor vulnerable to dutton’s climate campaign as voters split on 2030 target

Peter Dutton has said at the next election the Coalition would oppose the 2030 emissions target, which Australia has committed to under the Paris agreement. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Voters are split on Peter Dutton’s controversial proposal to abandon Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction target, despite rejecting his plan to wait at least 15 years for nuclear power to help achieve net zero by 2050.

The latest Guardian Essential poll of 1,181 respondents suggests Labor’s efforts to boost renewable energy are popular, but the Albanese government is vulnerable to a Coalition campaign focusing on the scale of Australia’s ambition to fight global heating.

After trailing the opposition in late April and May, Labor now leads the Coalition 48% to 46% in two-party preferred terms, with 6% of voters undecided.

The Coalition recorded a primary vote of 32%, followed by Labor on 31%, the Greens on 13% and One Nation on 8%. Nine per cent of respondents intended to vote for an independent; a further 6% were undecided.

Labor held an advantage over the Coalition on a number of policy issues, rated “better” at handling: the transition to renewable energy (34% to 18%); public health (34% to 21%); representing our interests globally (30% to 25%); and keeping the public safe (27% to 24%). However, more than 40% said that “neither” party was better at handling those issues.

Earlier in June Dutton said the Coalition would oppose the legislated 2030 emissions target – a 43% cut compared with 2005 levels – at the next election but remained committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

In the Essential poll just more than half (52%) of those surveyed said Australia should “stick to its 2030 target and achieving this target is necessary to meet the 2050 target”.

Just less than half (48%) said the target was “unachievable and hurting the economy” and Australia should “instead focus on the 2050 target”. Two-thirds of Coalition voters (67%) supported that view, as did one-third (34%) of Labor voters. Women were more likely to favour sticking with the 2030 target (55%) than men (50%).

When respondents were told that abandoning the 2030 targets “would breach Australia’s legally binding commitment to the Paris climate agreement”, which only allows countries to increase their targets, voters were still split with 36% opposed, 31% in favour and 33% neither supporting nor opposing the Dutton plan.

While Dutton’s plan was opposed in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, in Queensland voters were more likely to support the call to abandon Paris (35%) than to stay in (29%).

Asked for the best way to achieve net zero by 2050 – which the Coalition says it still supports – most voters wanted to “continue to develop renewables and decommission old, inefficient fossil fuels” (63%).

The other option to “stop the development of renewables, stick with fossil fuels and wait until nuclear is developed in 15-20 years” was supported by 37% of respondents.

The CSIRO has said electricity from nuclear would be at least 50% more expensive than solar and wind, and would take at least 15 years to develop.

Support for vape plan dips

The poll found that support for the government’s plan to “regulate vapes so that they are only available through pharmacies with a prescription” has dipped two points since March to 56%, while opposition was up a point to 22%.

More than 70% agreed with the government’s main arguments for the ban including “vapes are creating a new generation of kids who are nicotine dependent” and “most people who vape are not using them as a way to quit smoking”. Just one in five voters (21%) described vaping as a “safer alternative to cigarettes”.

The poll also found decreasing support for Israel’s military action in Gaza. Just 15% of those surveyed said Israel was “justified” in continuing the action, down four points since April. Some 21% supported a ceasefire, up two points, and 38% said Israel should withdraw permanently, up six points. A bit more than a quarter (27%) were unsure.

A majority of respondents (53%) said they were “satisfied” with the Australian government’s response to the Israel-Gaza war, about a third (32%) said it was “too supportive of Israel” and half that (16%) said it had been “too harsh” on Israel.

Dutton’s call to pressure the international criminal court (ICC) to withdraw arrest warrants for the Israeli prime minister and defence minister for the conduct of the war was supported by just a quarter (24%) of respondents.

Twice as many voters (48%) said Australia should respect the ICC and allow its processes to continue without intervention, which is the Albanese government’s position, while 28% were unsure.

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