Australians have evaluated the first weeks of liberalising restrictions and like what they see. This week’s national COVID-19 survey of 1,200 people shows those saying Australia is responding to coronavirus at an appropriate level has rebounded from 78% last week to its highest level yet at 82%.
After some dips in leading indicators last week, as people watched cautiously to see if Australia had eased restrictions “too soon”, anxieties appear to have abated for now despite a second wave remaining a persistent concern for some.
• Concern about coronavirus is now at its lowest level (68% ‘extremely’ and ‘very concerned’) since our survey began on 12 March. Just over half now expect the pandemic situation to get better in the next three months (51% up from 45% last week).
• Economic optimism also picked up, with nearly three in five (59%) thinking the economy will get better in the next year – up significantly from 52% last week.
• There is increasing agreement government is taking appropriate measures to protect people’s health, support businesses, help those in financial difficulty and is communicating clearly. Support for JobKeeper (67%, up from 63% last week) is also holding firm despite some public criticism of the scheme.
• Confidence in most institutions, including banks, supermarkets, restaurants, pubs and clubs, has also rebounded across the board.
Reflecting strengthening confidence in government liberalisation strategies, support for interstate and NZ border openings has also grown significantly. Some 70% now think that it is appropriate to open state borders within the next three months compared to just 58% two weeks ago. Support for opening the border with New Zealand in the next three months has also increased to 54% from 39% two weeks ago. However, reflecting an ongoing concern about the potential for a second wave and a subsequent revision on lockdowns, only one in 10 support opening other international borders.
In a new finding, regional Australians have welcomed a potential influx of visitors. Some 68% of those in regional areas feel that an influx of travellers to their region would have a positive effect on the area where they live, with just one in 10 thinking it would be negative (10%, including 7% slightly negative). On intrastate travel, some 24% of all Australians expect to travel within their state for leisure or personal reasons within the next month, with 46% expecting to do so in the next two months.
Despite the lift in confidence, the overall economic impact, jobs and unemployment and a potential recession remain the biggest concerns about coronavirus. Some 79% are ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ concerned about the economy with 70% concerned about job opportunities and unemployment (both slightly up from last week). New results show that four in 10 people are working less hours than they did before the coronavirus. 38% also say they want to be working more hours than they are now with 16% wanting to work less.
New generational profiling this week shows that Gen Z (born mid-late 1990s) and Gen Y (born 1980 – 1994) are the groups that report being most impacted by the virus, most concerned about it and most likely to be adhering to restrictions. In contrast, Baby Boomers (1946-64) are least impacted and least worried about opening borders but more concerned about the economy. Notably younger Australians worry most about its impact on their job security (59% for Gen Z and 61% for Gen Y, versus 57% for Gen X (1965-1980) and 49% for Baby Boomers).
Meanwhile the relaxation in rules is having a generally positive impact on people’s lives:
• There have been significant declines in concern over violent community behaviour (49% down from 54% last week), personally catching the virus (38%, down from 46%) and facing shortages of food and other essentials (28%, down from 34%).
• Personal impacts appear to be reducing, with fewer people avoiding non-essential contact outside their home (40% this week, down from 46% last week) and a reduction in working from home (24%, down from 30%).
• Adherence to restrictions has dipped slightly since last week, with 39% more careful than required compared with 44% last week. Victorians are significantly more likely to be careful (47%) than other Australians.
• Despite this, Australians are keen to see a measured approach to easing with restrictions, with 33% saying they are being eased too quickly (26% a little too quickly, 7% far too quickly).
Prior to the pandemic only 24% of workers worked at least one day a week at home. However, 52% are currently working at home at least one day a week and this trend is expected to continue after restrictions are lifted with 42% expecting to work at home at least once a week. Those more likely to work from home at least one day a week in future include men, those aged 18-34, those who have a young child at home and those who have a uni degree.