Voters have categorically rejected Prime Minister Tony Abbott's increase to the pension age of 70. A fresh poll shows two-thirds of voters oppose the plan.
Before a tough budget expected to include cuts to family payments and a rise in petrol excise, an exclusive Fairfax ReachTel poll has found strong opposition to extending the pension age. The backlash has led to the combined Liberal and Nationals vote dropping to 38 per cent before preferences compared to the ALP, which is on 40 per cent. That is a fall on the Coalition primary vote of 8 percentage points after it secured 46 per cent of first preference votes at the September 2013 election.
The Greens party remains around its election mark of 11 per cent, leading to a two-party-preferred result between Labor and the Coalition, based on preference flows at last year's election, of 54-46 in favour of the ALP - virtually reversing the election result.
But the poll also shows the government has won support for its controversial deficit tax plan. More than half of all voters think a hit on high income earners is justified to rebalance the budget.
The survey follows a series of polls in recent weeks charting the government's fast-waning popularity as it manages a difficult pre-budget period.
A stream of reports have signalled tax increases, a new user-pays focus for services, which means such things as GP visits will
attract up-front payments, and changes to virtually every level of federal government activity.
Asked ''would you support a deficit levy of between 1 and 2 per cent being imposed on high income earners to help reduce debt'', 54 per cent of respondents indicated support.
This compared to 32 per cent opposed, and 14 per cent undecided.
The deficit tax would add an extra 2¢ on top of the top marginal bracket of 45¢ in every dollar earned above $180,000 in order to raise between $4.8 billion and $5.2 billion over four years, according to experts.
Coalition supporters appear most relaxed about the measure despite this cohort being most likely to be hit.
Sixty-three per cent of Coalition voters back the tax plan and less than a quarter oppose it. Support is lowest among Labor voters but highest overall among voters of all loyalties aged above 65 years where it finds favour with 69 per cent.
The surprise finding may ultimately vindicate Mr Abbott's politically risky decision to break a solemn and repeated election pledge of no new or increased taxes.
With his government already bleeding supporters and trailing Labor, the ReachTel poll of 3241 respondents suggests that trend could become even more pronounced once the delayed pension age becomes official.
Taken on Thursday night, the survey showed two-thirds of voters - or 68 per cent - opposed lifting the retirement age to 70, notwithstanding that it is already moving in increments from the present age of 65 to 67 by 2023. The government's plan will see that incremental advance continued until 2035 when a retiree would need to be 70 to obtain the pension.
In recent days, government ministers from Treasurer Joe Hockey down have been warning of across-the-board pain in the budget. Some suggest the controversial debt levy, which seemed unthinkable only a fortnight ago, would be among the least objectionable aspects of the budget.
The ReachTel poll showed that in every age bracket and in the three established voter groups – the Coalition, ALP, and the Greens – a firm majority remained opposed to the 70-year-old eligibility.
The most marked difference was among Greens supporters who opposed the plan decisively with 82 per cent against to just 7 per cent in favour. Eleven per cent were undecided. Among Labor voters, 82 per cent opposed the older age compared with 10 per cent in favour.
Coalition supporters were more evenly split with 46 per cent opposed to and 40 per cent for the change.