Some 72% of Australians support Christmas and New Year parties at home with family and friends, this week’s coronavirus tracker study shows. But our survey of nearly 1,800 Australians, taken Monday 26 – Wednesday 28 October, shows the community continuing to discriminate between essential and non-essential contact with others. Two thirds (67%) said Christmas services and religious events should be allowed but opinions were more mixed on whether unrestricted beach access (53% yes), boxing day sales (53%) or end of year work parties (52%) should be allowed. Queenslanders and West Australians were the most open to celebrations of all kinds.
There was more evidence that Australians are continuing to cautiously welcome greater normalisation, with two-thirds of Australians keen to see state borders opened by Christmas. Notably, there was a significant increase in support among Queenslanders (64%, up from 55% last week) after a week of bickering between the NSW and Queensland premiers over the issue. Support for opening state borders within a month has increased to 55%, up from 50% last week. The Queensland Election this Saturday and Victoria’s re-opening should pave the way for state border openings across Australia’s eastern seaboard that should see a pick-up in business and domestic tourism that will further boost the economic recovery.
While the economy is still the community’s top concern, the overall downward trend in pessimism is continuing. Those concerned that the economy will get worse over the next month dropped to 44%, down from 62% seven weeks ago. More optimism is evident over the longer-term with 58% thinking it will get better in one year and 27% saying it will get worse. However, predictions about the spread of the virus remains fairly steady over the one month and three month horizons, perhaps reflecting alarming infection rates in Europe and the United States.
In another positive sign, half (49%) of respondents are also reporting a return to pre-COVID 19 levels of household income, up from 43% two weeks ago. This is matched by a decline in those reporting their financial situation is worse than before the virus (now 36%, down from 42% four weeks ago). Meanwhile 15% say they are financially better off. There is also a significant decline in the proportion of Australians reporting reduced working hours this week (from 18% to 12%).
Significantly fewer Australians are reporting that restrictions are making their day-to-day life very difficult (31%, down from 35% a week ago), largely driven by a drop in NSW. Encouragingly, the proportion of Australians experiencing more mental health issues as a result of COVID-19 continues to decline (19%, down from 25% two weeks ago), as have feelings of isolation (24%, down from 28% two weeks ago).
There are signs that some are starting to reject health messages about mask wearing, with those who say they definitely or probably would wear a mask when social distancing is difficult dropping from 68% to 62% in a week.
We note our survey was well under way before the lifting of the Melbourne lockdown was announced – next week we might see some results reflecting how residents are feeling now they are allowed out to enjoy their fair city. We wish them all a very enjoyable and safe weekend!