A concerted effort to talk up the merits of coal wins over only 18% of voters, but renewable love fades if bills rise quickly. Renewables get the thumbs up from voters polled in the latest Guardian Essential poll, especially younger voters, as long as prices don’t rise too much. Image credit: Josh Wall/Guardian Australia

People don’t like the federal Nationals’ plan to build more coal-fired power plants as part of the Turnbull government’s new energy policy, according to a poll from the Guardian Essentials that was released this week.

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%.

However, a majority of survey respondents would oppose a clean energy target that resulted in an increase in energy prices greater than 5%, highlighting consumer sensitivity to high power bills.

Younger people were more likely than older voters 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 school 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 by 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, people were asked if the annual economic statement had made them more or less happy with the government.

Seventeen percent said the budget had improved their overall perception of the government, and 30 percent 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%).

Another question asked people whether they thought the leaders of big parties were doing well or not.

Thirty-six percent 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 that 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.

Green Party voters narrowly preferred Shorten (35%) to Turnbull (31%).

With the coal and renewable energy questions, the groups most likely to prefer investment in renewable energy sources were Greens voters, voters between 18 and 24, and Labor voters.

Most people of all ages and backgrounds wanted to see more money spent on renewable energy sources instead of coal.

But the voters most likely to favour the construction of new coal plants were voters over 65, other party/independent voters, and coalition voters.

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