Health care, cost of living the top issues of voters

AUSTRALIANS are still most likely to cite health care as the top issue facing the nation despite concerns about key economic issues being more important to voters now than at any time in the past three years.

Market research company Ipsos, which conducts a monthly issues survey, found 39% of Australians nominated healthcare/hospitals as one of the top three issues facing the nation, followed by inflation/cost of living (33%), the economy (33%), crime (26%) and unemployment (24%).

When the Issues Monitor began in November 2010, 51% of Australians selected either cost of living, the economy or unemployment as a top issue facing the nation. That figure has now jumped to 69%.

And despite extensive media attention, August was the first time since February immigration was not one of the top five issues facing the nation.

The survey of more than 1000 people found anxiety about the economy and unemployment had increased in the weeks since Kevin Rudd deposed Julia Gillard as prime minister, with 33% concerned about the economy now compared to 26% in June and 24% concerned about unemployment compared to 19% in June.

While the two parties are considered equally capable of managing healthcare/hospitals, the ALP is now seen as the leader in just two of the 19 issues tracked in the Ipsos Issues Monitor (Education and Poverty). In July, the ALP led the way on six of the 19 issues - healthcare, unemployment, education, poverty, race relations and indigenous issues - after not being viewed as the party of choice to manage any of the issues in June.

Ipsos research director Daniel Evans said even though Mr Rudd's return to The Lodge had boosted Labor's credibility, the survey painted a grim picture of its chances of retaining government on September 7.

"While the ALP is definitely in a better position relative to when Mr Rudd took over in late June, Australians are still more likely to think that the Liberal-National Coalition is more capable of managing these issues," Mr Evans said.

"Mr Abbott's team is considered 1.6 times more capable than the ALP to manage cost of living, 1.5 times more capable on the economy and 1.3 times more capable to manage unemployment."