Coalition rejected: 78% support Labor’s NBN


news An informal online poll taken by the ABC appears to have shown that voters have already rejected the Coalition’s rival National Broadband Network policy, with 78 percent of some 5,700 readers noting that they didn’t support the policy revealed last week.

On Tuesday last week the Coalition published its long-awaited rival NBN policy. The policy promises Australians download speeds of between 25Mbps and 100Mbps by the end of 2016 and 50Mbps to 100Mbps by the end of 2019, at a projected reduced total cost of $29.5 billion. Unlike Labor’s NBN project, it will make extensive use of fibre to the node technology (where fibre is rolled out to neighbourhood ‘nodes’ and much of the existing copper network is maintained), but will also utilise fibre to the premise, satellite and fixed wireless solutions in some areas.

Debate has swirled continuously since the policy was launched. A number of high-profile commentators, including telecommunications experts, academics and even property owner groups quickly rejected the Coalition’s policy approach. However, some analysts have praised it as being more achievable than Labor’s more comprehensive vision, and Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has also come in for praise for reforming the Coalition’s broadband policy since the 2010 Federal Election.

If a poll taken by the ABC over the past week is any indication, however, the Coalition’s policy is overwhelmingly unpopular with the electorate. The poll conducted on the ABC’s The Drum opinion site (which has recently hosted a number of articles both positive and negative towards the policy) has found so far that 78 percent of readers were against the Coalition’s new policy, with 20 percent for it and a further 2 percent unsure.

Critics of the ABC have long argued that its audience is slanted towards the left-wing side of the political spectrum, meaning that the poll may not be taken seriously by the more conservative or traditional liberal side of politics.

The news comes as the Coalition continues to face increasing criticism from the public at large over its broadband policy. Turnbull’s Facebook page, for example, has been inundated with hundreds of comments severely criticising the Member for Wentworth over his policy plans. “I’m no fan of the Labor government, but the Coalition deserve to lose the election on the basis of their NBN policy alone,” wrote one commenter. “FTTN is a complete waste of time and money.” In addition, the #fraudband hashtag continues to be popular on Twitter, with those opposing the Coalition’s policy using it to gather ridicule and opposition to the policy.

The polling results mimic ongoing popular support for Labor’s NBN vision over a multi-year period. In October last year, for example, a new study by Swinburne University found that two thirds of Australians support the Federal Government’s National Broadband Network project, with most planning to connect to the network when it’s connected to their premises.

The news comes several months after an independent review commissioned by the Federal Government found that rural and regional Australian communities were strongly committed to the NBN, with a focus on maximising the potential of the infrastructure when it arrives in their area. The review’s findings echo a recent analysis of rural media coverage following the announcement of the three-year rollout plan for the NBN, which showed overwhelming demand for the infrastructure from a large number of rural and regional Australian communities, with many expressing disappointment that they had been left off the list for the NBN’s first few years.

The popularity of the NBN in rural areas is consistent with polling figures which have consistently shown high levels of popular support for the project Australia-wide. In February, for example, a poll released by research houses Essential Media and Your Source showed that the NBN policy has continued to enjoy strong levels of popularity, especially amongst Labor and Greens voters, since the last Federal Election.

The pair polled their audience with the following question: “From what you’ve heard, do you favour or oppose the planned National Broadband Network (NBN)”? The response displayed an enduring level of support for the NBN, with 56 percent of total respondents supporting the NBN in total, compared with 25 percent opposed and 19 percent stating that they didn’t know.

Just 10 percent of those polled strongly opposed the NBN, while 20 percent strongly favoured the project. Amongst Labor and Greens voters who responded to the poll, support was the strongest, with 80 percent and 77 percent supporting the initiative, 42 percent of Coalition voters supported it. Over the past 14 months since September 2010, Your Source has asked respondents the same question on three other occasions, with respondents displaying a very similar support rate for the project — ranging from 48 to 56 percent. Those opposing the project have ranged from 19 percent of respondents to 27 percent.

This data was largely echoed in April, when another similar poll showed support for the initiative continues to grow to record levels. According to the polling data, in total, 42 percent of respondents who identified themselves as Liberal or National voters stated that they were in favour of the NBN, while 40 percent in total opposed the project and the remaining 18 percent didn’t know. Of that 42 percent, eight percent were strongly in favour of the Labor plan, with 34 percent being in favour, and of the 40 percent against, 14 percent strongly opposed the NBN, with 26 percent opposing it. Amongst Labor and Greens voters, the numbers are much more strongly in favour of the NBN, with 80 percent of Labor voters and 68 percent of Greens voters for the plan, and with a much higher proportion of those polled being strongly in favour.

I’m not surprised by the vitriol which has been directed at the Coalition over its rival NBN policy; nor am I surprised that the policy continues to be overwhelmingly popular amongst the electorate. The NBN has always been an extremely popular policy for Labor, and why not? Most Australians would like dramatically faster broadband, and even if the Coalition’s policy will deliver many of the same aims, most people will doubtless see it as inferior on purely technical grounds.

I’m sure these poll results will be criticised on the basis that the ABC’s audience has a prevalent left-leaning swing. Personally, I’m not too sure what validity such a claim would have — I haven’t seen any concrete audience demographics from the ABC for some time — but I do know that when I personally have NBN-related articles published on The Drum, I get many comments from both sides of the debate; meaning the ABC has readers on both sides of the debate and from all walks of political life.


  1. “Premises” is both plural and singular. A “premise” is something else altogether.

    The polling results aren’t too surprising. The Coalition’s plan is really only based on 2 things, neither of which are based on a quality outcome:

    1. It’ll be rolled out quicker than Labor’s. This is debatable as they’re also assuming Labor’s will have massive delays while theirs won’t, otherwise the 2 year difference is negligible.
    2. It’ll be cheaper than Labor’s. Also debatable in the longer term.

    Hardly selling points for the masses who just want a good service.

    Side issues such as infrastructure competition, socialist gov’t comments and general politicking may not rate a mention for a lot of people.

  2. I’m a supporter of Labor’s NBN but if I understand your article correctly, it sounds like you are reporting on an Internet poll where the participants are self selecting. If that is the case, then the results are dubious at best.
    Non-Internet users are automatically excluded as they won’t see the poll in the first place. A second problem is selection bias. The people who are going to see the page/article would presumably be interested in the NBN and in using the Internet. The biggest problem with the result is that online polls are easy to break with one group or another being able to direct like minded folks to the poll in order to vote “the right way”.
    It might be better to wait for some scientific polling results (eg random survey of Australian voters, with around 800-1000) before claiming the Coalition’s policy has been rejected.

    • There are multiple other polls based on standard polling methodology that also back up this data if this were a single data point you response would be valid but it is not.

      • Have those other polls been completed since the Coalition announced their policy? I would be interested to see how properly conducted polls have changed since this announcement.

        • Don’t think there has been since the policy its still a bit soon will probably see something in the next month

          • Given the sample size, the supports the hypothesis that more people supports the ALP’s version of the NBN than the LNP’s version but not the % figures. They are statistically different given the sample size.

      • Are you talking scientific polls or internet polls where people just fill in an answer on a website if they feel like it?

        If it’s scientific polling then you have a point. If it’s internet polls, you don’t. It’s fairly straightforward for a politically active group to break these webpolls and many groups routinely do it on a voluntary basis and I’m sure that there are a fair number that do it on a professional basis, which gets to another point I had on this article…

        Renai, I’m not sure that it means anything that you get criticized on the ABC website. I know that in the U.S. that there are a number of people being paid to provide comments and be an active presence in the comments sections on various news sites. With an upcoming Federal election here, it would not surprise me in the least if the same thing is happening here. I’m sure you are getting lots of legitimate comments on the ABC site, but it would not surprise me in the least if you have commenters there or even here who are being paid to play.

        • There have been a number of polls showing the support for Labor NBN to be very positive some were conducted by a university can’t remember which one but the results are available and published here at Delimiter if you want to check the archives.

    • @Aaron

      Non-Internet users are automatically excluded as they won’t see the poll in the first place.

      Umm, only 10% of the Australian population don’t use the internet….

        • Personally I’d rather see some sort of evidence, be it a survey or analysis, as opposed to out and out FUD, plucked from thin air and then the strawman argued…

          For example MT saying for the last two years the NBN will cost $50B, $50B I say… my plan will cost one third. Of course the faithful argued accordingly.

          Then a day or two before he released his plan… no wait a minute having redone my sums, the NBN will cots $90B, $90B I tells ya..

          And BTW here’s my plan, $30B, one third as promised.

          Of course the faithful now argue $90B


        • Not really. 2 polls one at 78% and one at 63% doesn’t prove the 78% is an exaggeration, maybe it proves the 63% is an understatement.

          Plus as you have pointed out surveys can be gamed. Without knowing the exact question asked, the population addressed etc they could be anything.

  3. I don’t think that the ABC has ever had a particular political bias. The bias has been from the politicians who either couldn’t stand the criticism or wanted an excuse to reduce the ABC funding and has been mirrored in the partisan press.

    The ABC poll that is referred to has had something less than 6,000 responses and as it is an on line poll it is questionable how accurate it is. Having said that I would point out that I have not seen a poll of any sort that doesn’t show that the Labor NBN has the support of the majority of Australians over the Liberal FTTN plan.

    The simple question now is whether or not the voters are going to punish the Coalition for their broadband policy and their explanations. I don’t think voters like to be treated as fools and I suspect that this is what they are going to be thinking is happening as more and more detailed discussion of the Coalition offering occurs and more and more people start saying I can connect to the NBN. Whether the distaste is translated to lower house votes is questionable but I would expect that the Senate could be a different matter.

  4. While I broadly agree with the inference that you can’t really trust online polling, there have been far more reputable polling results, which have shown similar numbers to this one.

    For example, this result appeared in ABC Insiders “Poll of Polls” segment on 27 May 2012:

    Certainly, this isn’t in the 78% range of the ABC poll described here, I would love to see a poll where the current NBN is not supported overwhelmingly.

  5. The self selecting poll of Labor NBN supporters on the ABC site needs to be taken in context of the bigger picture of a proper random poll with todays Newspoll result on which party will win the next election, which is a much better indicator of how the Coaltion NBN Policy is swaying people’s vote.

    The Coaltion policy is having zero negative effect, with the Coalition gaining points and Labor falling further behind.

      • What’s political leaning got to do with which NBN policy people prefer? You’re implying people can’t separate a good policy from their general political views.

        • +1 Ian

          IMO, such comments tend to suggest more about the poster than the posters comments.

    • Sorry, that isn’t how actual analysis works. You are confusing correlation and causation.

      • This is the first poll since the Coalition NBN Policy announcement, it is interesting to see if all the negative comments from ‘experts’ on the Coalition Policy translates into a voter swing to Labor, even minor.

        The answer so far is no.

        • So far, but give it time to sink in and you’ll find lots of folk will wake up to the fact that on the NBN alone, the LNP aren’t worth voting for – frankly I reckon the LNP have badly underestimated the electorate on this and it will be their undoing.

          • Unfortunately I doubt it will be there undoing.

            But hopefully people will reject them by selecting an independent/minor party first then preferencing their favoured major party after.

            Just need to find a minor party/indy who supports the Current NBN, but tends to more coalition leaning otherwise.

        • I don’t think any policy announcements would make much change. Even if Labor announced a new policy which is widely regarded as being very good, there wouldn’t be any motion at the polls.

          Right now we are in a pre-emptive backlash phase, waiting to punish Gillard. Policy is pretty much irrelevant now.

        • Let’s see what their other policies are. If this is an indication of the quality and honesty of their other policies, people might start having second thought, given that Abbott is hardly anymore popular than Gillard.

          This other factor that always seem to be forgotten is that historically, Australians do not like to have, to coin Howard’s term, wall to wall governments of one party and often vote for opposite parties in state and federal elections.

        • Conversely, because Gillard is on the nose, it doesn’t mean the NBN is no good or that MT’s plan is better.

          What this does clearly indicate, with the overall Coalition so far ahead in the polls yet the NBN gaining vast majority support, is exactly as we have been saying here all along… NBN supporters are by and large not politically motivated, we are NBN supporters… not political ideologists.

          And using the same figures and of course, having seen the same old comments, by the same old tired anti-NBN stalwarts (but under more new names) what does that also tell us?

    • The Fairfax/Nielsen poll at is not self selected and shows strong preferences for the Real NBN.

      It was “taken from last Thursday to Saturday, two days after Tony Abbott and his communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull launched their NBN policy. ”

      The leaders’ results are the opposite of the NBN thereby proving that people CAN tell the difference and are not just following the dicta of the party they vote for.

  6. I’d love to have an NBN rolled out – and yet have all the people who dislike the labour NBN forced to stay on 3g/4g wireless only….

    and for them to have a cabinet set up in front of their house…

  7. In addition to the valid criticisms above, there was actually a story recently about a US study which attempted to reconcile opinions expressed on popular social media platforms and popular opinion among the general populace. What it found was the views expressed on platforms such as Twitter and the like tended to be skewed towards extreme positions and were not representative at all of the opinions of the general public.

    Food for thought.

    • That’s not all that surprising considering it tends to be those with a strong opinion leading the social media charge.

    • “What it found was the views expressed on platforms such as Twitter and the like tended to be skewed towards extreme positions and were not representative at all of the opinions of the general public.”

      I’ve read some of Turnbulls tweets and I have to agree.

  8. These are findings from the nielsen poll according to SMH

    “Of those who had heard about the government’s NBN, about 63 per cent of those surveyed supported it, reveals the Fairfax-Nielsen poll of 1400 Australians. However, of those who have heard about the Coalition’s alternative, only 41 per cent back it.”

    “Labor and Greens voters overwhelmingly support the government’s plan, with about 85 per cent backing the faster and more expensive network. The same voters dismiss the Coalition’s alternative, with more than 70 per cent from both parties opposing it.”

    “Coalition voters oppose Labor’s NBN by a small margin, with 43 per cent for and 48 per cent against. About 60 per cent of Coalition voters support the opposition’s alternative network.”

  9. It would be interesting to know, the number and views of those who had not heard of either policies. I also wonder what the results were by age group.

    It is well known. to those conducting polls, that it is extremely hard to find people in younger age group for telephone interviews. Even though this is normally adjusted for, the very small number of younger respondents often makes it difficult to to so accurately.

    • Well it would seem to be Rupert, Alan J, Andrew B, the Jesuits (at least for Abbott) and most of the Skynews ‘fair and balanced’ commentators… oh, yeah, and that Kohler dude too, you know the copper retention is ‘no biggie’ guy who has a lengthy relationship with NewsWarp and Mediawatch…

      • I work with the Jesuits and can tell you they would prefer not to be represented by Abbot in any way, shape or form! The only word I have heard a number of Jesuits use to describe him is ‘idiot’. You can also tell by what he says that he isn’t ‘listening’ to them either. If a Jesuit Education taught him anything, he seems to have forgotten it without any problem.

  10. “Critics of the ABC have long argued that its audience is slanted towards the left-wing side of the political spectrum, meaning that the poll may not be taken seriously by the more conservative or traditional liberal side of politics.”

    Intelligence has always had a left wing bias, so I don’t doubt that’s true :). Its readers of publications like The Australian we have to worry about.

    While it’s always encouraging to see polling results strongly in favour of Labor’s NBN, I fear it’s going to mean bugger all when people go to the polls. Regardless of their opinion of the NBN, only a small selection of society will vote based on their preference for broadband. There are way too many other important issues for people to consider.

  11. The analysis would have been much more worthwhile if based upon the Fairfax/Nielsen poll which has very little selection bias.

    In addition, it will be interesting to see how these numbers vary over the comming weeks.

    Internet polls are too easily manipulated / biased to be worth reporting on. The bias is evident in the huge difference between the two results of the professionally done poll and the internet polls.

      • It would be interesting to know what percentage of the Coalition voters were being objective on the NBN policy and how many are based on support for their party.

        • Different numbers yes. But different result no.

          Same result… overwhelming support for the NBN.

          • No one is arguing that.

            My comment was to highlight that they are statistically significantly different.

            To show that more than half the population supports it is easy in statistics, but to gain a concrete number such as Renai quoted at 78% in his headline is much harder. It is especially misleading when made on dodgy methodology and shown to be significantly different to proper surveys without analysis of why there is any discrepancy.

          • “No one is arguing that.”

            Great, so there isn’t an issue with the actual “result” after all.

            Just an interpretational difference – comprehensive or overwhelming :)

  12. It doesn’t really matter what the polls say in regard to Labor vs Coalition NBN because unless it translates into a voter swing with enough clout to get Labor back in it has no real world outcome.

    The fervent hope on the part of Labor NBN supporters is that poll results will influence a change of mind by Turnbull to get behind the Labor rollout, if it was going to happen it would have been reflected in the Coalition Policy release, they ain’t going to change their mind now.

    The only hope of higher Labor like FTTH rollout by the Coalition rests with failed Telstra negotiations on the copper component of FTTN.

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