Guardian Essential poll: voters back Labor’s Future Made in Australia plan while overestimating cost of renewables

<span>More voters think the transition to renewable energy will be positive for Australia (49%) than negative (26%), the latest Guardian Essential poll finds. But responses on whether the shift will benefit ‘me individually’ are more evenly split.</span><span>Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images</span>
More voters think the transition to renewable energy will be positive for Australia (49%) than negative (26%), the latest Guardian Essential poll finds. But responses on whether the shift will benefit ‘me individually’ are more evenly split.Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Voters have backed Anthony Albanese’s Future Made in Australia plan but are under the misapprehension that renewables are the most expensive form of power.

Those are the results of Guardian’s latest Essential poll of 1,145 voters, illustrating the difficulty for Labor of selling the energy transition to sceptical voters.

Albanese’s net approval was steady at -5%, with 48% disapproving of the job the prime minister is doing and 43% approving.

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, received a positive rating of +3%. Some 44% approve of the job Dutton is doing, up four points from February, while 41% disapprove, down three points.

Earlier in April Albanese signalled a dramatic shift towards using industry policy to speed up the energy transition, provide certainty for investors and create domestic manufacturing of batteries and solar panels.

Related: Albanese reveals plan for interventionist green industry policy similar to Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act

When respondents were told that the Future Made in Australia policy “will provide funding for large-scale renewable energy projects that support the creation of local jobs”, 51% said they supported the policy either strongly (20%) or somewhat (31%). Three in 10 (30%) said they neither supported nor opposed the policy, while 19% opposed it.

A majority of respondents agreed with propositions supporting greater industry policy, including that “the pandemic showed we cannot be wholly reliant on global supply chains” (70% agreed) and that “it was a mistake to allow the Australian car industry to close” (63%).

A minority agreed with propositions opposing market intervention, such as that “it is not the government’s job to support Australian businesses that can’t compete overseas” (37%) and “the market will make the best decisions and government should stay out of the way” (34%).

Asked when the transition to renewable energy “will have a direct, noticeable impact on your day-to-day life”, a majority said it was either already having an impact (17%), would in the next two years (19%) or in the next five (24%).

More voters thought the transition would be positive for Australia as a whole (49%) than negative (26%), but asked if the transition would benefit “me individually”, results were more evenly split, with 36% saying it would be positive, 23% negative and 41% saying it would have no impact.

The poll also found a majority (52%) of voters supported developing nuclear power for the generation of electricity, up two points since October 2023, and 31% opposed it, down two.

Asked to rank which form of electricity was the most expensive, “renewable energies, such as wind and solar” ranked first among 40% of respondents, followed by nuclear by 36% and “fossil fuels, such as coal and gas” by 24%.

Labor has repeatedly rebuffed Dutton’s nuclear push, citing cost – including an estimate from the energy department that replacing fossil fuels with nuclear could cost $387bn.

While campaigning for nuclear power, Dutton disparaged a CSIRO report by incorrectly claiming it does not factor in the cost of transmission into the cost of renewables. The GenCost report, which also modelled the cost of nuclear power, found renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy in Australia.

Noting the Albanese government’s commitment to reaching net zero emissions by 2050, half of respondents (50%) believed it was “not likely” to reach the target, down seven points since October 2023, while those who said it was likely (38%) was up six points.

Meanwhile, renewable energy’s share of the national grid hit 39% of the grid in the first three months of the year, a record for the March quarter – almost as much as black coal’s contribution.

The advance of clean energy helped keep a lid on emissions in the national electricity market as overall power demand rose 1.7% from the March quarter last year. Higher temperatures was one reason for the uptick, according to the latest quarterly report from the Australian Energy Market Operator.

Wholesale electricity prices averaged $76 per megawatt hour, down 8% from a year earlier. The reduction would have been greater if not for a jump in volatility, triggered by events such as storms bringing down a transmission line in Victoria.