Australians are divided about the merits of the Morrison government’s controversial India travel ban, but a strong majority endorses the Coalition’s budget plan to boost funding for the aged care system, according to the latest Guardian Essential poll.

The survey of 1,092 respondents shows a majority of people surveyed (56%) think Australian citizens should be permitted to return from Covid-ravaged India provided they complete the necessary quarantine procedures when they arrive (22% of the sample was opposed to that idea).

When asked specifically about the travel ban imposed just over a week ago, 48% of the Guardian Essential sample said Australian citizens in India should be banned from entering the Australia due to the risk of Covid-19 transmission, while 27% opposed that idea. Survey respondents were also asked whether they supported jail time and fines to underpin the government’s travel ban, and 41% said yes while 33% said no.

The Morrison government will use Tuesday night’s economic statement, characterised as a “show bag budget” by the Labor leader Anthony Albanese, to unleash billions in social spending, including an anticipated $18bn for the aged care sector, while continuing to support the economic recovery after the pandemic.

As well as the significant aged care spend, and investments in mental health and suicide prevention, there will be changes to superannuation for retirees. Singles who want to downsize their family home in retirement will be able to put $300,000 into their super accounts after the age of 60. Couples can put in double that amount.

As the government gears up for a voter-friendly budget that could propel it to an election contest later this year, the latest poll suggests Scott Morrison has begun to recover some of the standing he lost with voters during the Brittany Higgins furore.

Approval for the prime minister has gone from 54% last month back up to 58% – a positive movement just outside the survey’s margin of error, which is plus or minus three points. Disapproval of Morrison has also declined from 37% last month to 32% in the latest poll.

Morrison’s approval took a particular hit among female voters when the #MeToo reckoning in federal parliament was at its zenith. Only 46% of women in the sample approved of Morrison’s performance last month – which was a decline from a high of 65% back in February.

But there’s been a recovery to 55% in this sample. Disapproval of the prime minister stood at 42% last month, and that’s also tracked down to 34%.

Morrison has also improved in the poll’s measure of better prime minister. Last month, Morrison led Albanese by 47% to 28%. In the latest survey, Morrison is ahead 50% to 24%. Albanese’s approval and disapproval ratings in the poll are constant compared to his standing last month.

With Tuesday’s night’s budget a significant focal point in national affairs, voters in the Guardian Essential sample were asked a number of questions about their expectations of what the government would deliver.

There is significant support for fortifying Australia’s aged care system in the wake of the damning findings of the royal commission into the sector, with 74% of the sample identifying that as a very important priority.

There was also majority support for new investments in childcare, women’s safety and domestic manufacturing capability for Covid-19 vaccines. Only 48% of the Guardian Essential sample identified reducing debt as a very important priority.

In a question about spending v debt reduction, 80% of the sample said the Morrison government should prioritise providing support for people and industries struggling because of the pandemic, and only 20% favoured debt reduction through reducing expenditure on services.

Asked for their preferred approach to job creation and growing the economy, 66% of respondents said the government should directly invest in the economy by creating projects and jobs, and raise the standard of living for the majority of workers, and 17% said the government should relax regulation and lower taxes for the wealthy to encourage businesses to grow, and create more jobs.

Speaking generally, voters appear to have higher expectations about what the government will deliver on Tuesday night than they did at the budget last October. People are more positive about the impact of the budget on the economy and on families than they were last year.

As well as responses on the India travel ban and their expectations about the budget, voters were also asked whether or not they were concerned about the risk of military confrontation with China given a succession of hawkish statements from analysts and the new defence minister Peter Dutton in recent weeks.

Asked: “To what extent are you concerned about Australia engaging in a military conflict with China in the near future”, 39% of respondents professed themselves extremely concerned or very concerned, while 61% said they were either fairly concerned, not very concerned or not at all concerned.

This content first appear on the guardian

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