Most voters believe Government weakness on border protection is to blame for the rising number of boats in Australian waters, according to a new poll. The Essential Media poll, reported on The Punch today, also finds more than half of voters believe there is a “real prospect” there are terrorists aboard the boats and say the Government is doing the right thing in trying to turn the boats away.

The findings coincide with the latest Newspoll showing a 7 point rise in primary vote support for the Coalition and a corresponding fall for the Rudd Government.

This spectacular swing comes amid a mounting sense of crisis surrounding the arrivals of asylum-seekers in Australian waters.

Only one in three respondents in the Essential poll said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was doing an “excellent or good” job on border protection. More than half rated his performance as “not so good” or poor.

But the Essential research finds a majority of voters also agrees that asylum seekers are coming from countries that have seen an escalation in violence and persecution.

Writing on The Punch, director of Essential Media and Communications Peter Lewis said the findings showed Mr Rudd’s “attempts to play tough cop are failing to translate into public approval for his handling of the issue.” Mr Lewis said the public understanding that asylum seekers were fleeing violent countries “suggests that if the public were presented with a story that humanised the plight of the asylum seekers they would be more likely to take a global view” and less likely to blame the Government for the current troubles.