news The results of a new poll released this week by research houses Essential Media and Your Source has shown that Labor’s flagship National Broadband Network policy has continued to enjoy strong levels of popularity, especially amongst Labor and Greens voters, since the last Federal Election.
The poll was taken by Australian social and market research company Your Source. The organisation sent out between 7,000 and 8,000 invitations to respond to each poll it conducts, from which it usually receives about 1,000 responses. Essential Media didn’t provide any more specific information about the response rate for this specific poll.
Over the past week the company polled its 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.
The polling echoes internal Coalition research.
A landmark internal report handed down in mid-2011 into the Coalition’s loss in the 2010 Federal Election highlighted a failure to adequately respond to Labor’s flagship National Broadband Network plan as a key reason for losing valuable votes, especially in the sensitive Tasmanian electorate, which is receiving the network before the rest of the nation.
The majority of the report did not mention the NBN, but one section quoted extensively from a similar report produced last year by Sydney academic Julian Leeser into the Tasmanian leg of the election, which has been reported in brief.
“The failure to properly explain the Liberal Party’s broadband policy and the Labor Party’s effective scare campaign was a major cause of the party’s failure to win seats in Tasmania,” the report states. “This was the nearly universal review of people making submissions to the review and is borne out by research undertaken by the Liberal Party. In the view of many, the party’s policy amounted to a threat to come into people’s homes and rip the Internet out of the wall.”
The report added that the NBN policy had a particularly strong effect on Tasmania for a number of reasons. For starters, the fibre network was already being rolled out in some towns, and Tasmania is also often behind the mainland in receiving new technology — so the early stage NBN rollout was seen as a boost to the state, as well as having flow-on effects in terms of jobs, for example.
In comparison, the Liberals’ policy was not as clear-cut as Labor’s.
“One of the problems of the broadband policy was that nowhere in the policy document was there any carve-out for Tasmania or any explanation of what the Liberal Party would do with existing infrastructure,” wrote Leeser in the report. “Numerous senior Liberals in Tasmania had raised the issue of broadband in Tasmania with senior Federal Liberals in Canberra, but a carve-out for Tasmania was forgotten.”
“The broadband policy was written at the last minute without a set of Tasmanian eyes cast over it. The party needs to make a clear and unambiguous statement about its intentions on broadband infrastructure in Tasmania in the future.”
During the 2010 Federal Election, it was very apparent to technology journalists that the population broadly supported the NBN and that, in a campaign which at times seemed to have no real focus, this was one of the real concrete policy differences between the two sides of politics. Had Labor not had the NBN, it may not have taken Government by the slim thread it did. And had the Coalition had a cohesive telecommunications policy and not suffered the policy launch disaster it did, with its then-Shadow Minister Tony Smith unable to clearly articulate the Coalition’s vision and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott not even attending the launch, it might have taken Government.
The Coalition needs to learn this lesson before the upcoming 2013 election (or whenever it may be). Labor’s NBN is a very popular project and has the support of the population.
This polling data also feeds into the fear that the Coalition will “cut” or “destroy” the NBN if it takes Government. If the Coalition does so, it will face a mass outpouring of discontent from the population, which is strongly in favour of the project. Even as many Coalition voters are in favour of the project as are against it. The Coalition should not bite the hand that feeds it during the next election and threaten again to cancel the NBN.
Table image credit: Essential Media