Guardian Essential poll: NSW voters sympathetic to Gladys Berejiklian despite Icac probe

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<span>Photograph: Jenny Evans/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Jenny Evans/Getty Images

Voters in New South Wales remain sympathetic to Gladys Berejiklian despite the former premier having to front the state’s anti-corruption commission to answer serious questions, according to the latest Guardian Essential poll.

Respondents in the survey of 1,094 voters were asked whether or not they agreed with Scott Morrison’s repeated criticism of the state’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (Icac).

The prime minister has characterised the NSW Icac as a “kangaroo court” and claimed Berejiklian had been hounded out of office.

Voters are split nationally about Morrison’s interventions, with 34% in agreement, 31% disagreeing with his comments, and 36% neither agreeing nor disagreeing. Outside NSW, a number of voters are on the fence about the fracas.

But among the NSW cohort of Guardian Essential respondents, voter sentiment in the current survey broke Berejiklian’s way – with 42% of respondents agreeing with Morrison’s contention, 29% disagreeing and 29% neither agreeing nor disagreeing – a result that helps explain the current positioning.

The current Icac investigation is serious enough to have triggered Berejiklian’s resignation. But Morrison wants to draft the former premier to run in the seat of Warringah at the next federal election.

Warringah is traditionally a Liberal stronghold, but independent Zali Steggall won the seat from Tony Abbott in 2019. The major parties are now in campaign mode, and Warringah is a targeted seat for the Liberals. On Monday, Morrison told reporters Berejiklian would be “very welcome” if she chose to run.

When it was put to him that Berejiklian was being investigated over whether or not she turned a blind eye to suspected corruption and breached her own ministerial standards, Morrison replied: “I don’t agree.”

“There is no suggestion of criminal conduct by Gladys Berejiklian – none whatsoever,” he said.

The former premier resigned voluntarily in September after Icac revealed it was investigating whether she broke the law by failing to report a reasonable suspicion of corruption on the part of her ex-lover, the former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire. At the time, Berejiklian expressed frustration over the timing of her departure, but told reporters she had “no option but to resign the office of premier”. She has denied any wrongdoing or that she had reason to suspectMaguire and Icac is yet to hand down its findings.

Related: Gladys Berejiklian says pork barrelling would not ‘be a surprise to anybody’ – but it’s not democracy either

The prime minister has faced significant criticism both inside and outside politics over his full frontal attack on the Icac, but Morrison has doubled down several times since. His assault intensified over the past fortnight as he came under significant pressure over his failure to introduce a bill establishing a federal anti-corruption body promised by the Coalition three years ago.

As well as testing voter sentiment on Berejiklian, Morrison and Icac, Guardian Essential poll respondents were also asked a number of questions about the Omicron variant, health regulations, and trust in institutions.

Asked how governments and health authorities should respond to the new Covid strain, almost half the sample (49%) thought it would be prudent to wait for more information, although 34% of respondents said Australia should impose tougher health restrictions proactively. Only 16% or respondents favoured no change in current settings.

The Omicron variant has sparked renewed debate about whether the developed world has done enough to vaccinate populations in poorer countries. A majority of Guardian Essential respondents (75%) agreed with the proposition: “until there are high vaccination rates in all countries, Australia will always be at risk of Covid-19 variants and outbreaks”.

Voters were split about whether it was Australia’s responsibility to assist low-income countries to control the spread of the virus, with 40% saying we have done enough in assisting with vaccination programs and 34% saying it was not Australia’s responsibility to assist suppression efforts in low income countries.

However, 42% said we should send some vaccines to developing countries even if that slowed the rollout of the booster shot program in Australia.

While there has been significant focus on the minority of Australians who oppose elements of the domestic public health response, the Guardian Essential data suggests people remain on board with vaccinations and tools like lockdowns to control the spread of infections.

A majority of respondents (61%) believe it should be compulsory for adults to be vaccinated unless they have a medical exemption.

When this statement was put to voters: “Governments should never impose lockdowns, no matter how great the threat of new Covid-19 variants or the effectiveness of vaccines against them” only 28% of the sample agreed, and 48% disagreed.

Related: Queensland border reopening: entry requirements explained as Covid restrictions lift

With restrictions easing ahead of the summer break, there is strong support for a regime of testing and quarantine for unvaccinated travellers. A majority (74%) believe unvaccinated people should be required to have a Covid test before travelling, while 68% say unvaccinated people should have to quarantine for a period before interstate travel.

A smaller majority (55%) say unvaccinated Australians should have to cover the costs of their hospital care should they become ill.

Voters were also asked questions about trust. The responses suggest voters trust the information they get from governments more than information they see on social media platforms (43% trust government while 19% trust the platforms). The government just beats the mainstream media (40%) but voters trust scientific bodies most of all (67%).

The data suggests Australians are open to a stronger regulatory regime for the digital platforms and that people are worried about how Facebook, Google and others use their private information. A majority (75%) also hold the platforms responsible if misinformation is circulating on their sites.

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