SEC Newgate Mood of the Nation report has found that healthcare and cost of living are top priorities for Australians and are set to be the battle lines that the two major parties spar for advantage in the upcoming 2022 Federal Election.
The Mood of the Nation is SEC Newgate’s new monthly tracking study that surveys over 1,200 people aged 18+, across all states and territories. Uniquely it surveys people on how they rate the importance of some 36 key economic, social and other issues. It also “heat maps” these issues to understand how passionate people are about them by getting them to nominate their personal “top three”.
Investing in quality, affordable healthcare (61% say this is extremely important) and reducing cost of living increases (58%) are top order priorities for Australians. The importance of COVID management has slipped, suggesting incumbents no longer have the advantage as the nation’s focus shifts elsewhere. In fact, Australians were generally optimistic about the COVID outlook, with 67% thinking things will be better in twelve months and only 12% feeling it will deteriorate.
Floods and disaster management has cut through across all voter segments, coming in as the third top prompted national issue (58%). In the wake of the recent catastrophic floods, there was also very strong support for an overhaul of planning regulations (84%), restricting development in flood areas (82%) and preventing some people from rebuilding in flood areas (67%).
Interestingly, the fourth highest priority was responding to violence against women (56%), while the need to strengthen our economy also rated highly (55%).
The survey also looked at issues by voting intention and found that Coalition and ALP voters were sharply divided on many of the issues. For Coalition voters the top priority is the economy followed (in order) by healthcare, crime and increasing local manufacturing capacity while for Labor voters the top issues were flood management, healthcare, cost of living and violence against women.
% selecting each priority as “extremely important”
However, the survey also showed a high proportion of undecided voters, many of whom are female or aged 18-34, are strongly focused on the economy, suggesting a traditional economic pitch to these voters could be effective for the Government in the 2022 Federal Election. Their top priorities were cost of living, healthcare, the economy, violence against women and protecting the natural environment.
In a sombre assessment of the national mood, these were the words that were most frequently selected as describing how Australians have been feeling in recent weeks.
From an equal mix of 32 positive and negative emotions, 57% of surveyed participants selected emotions that were negative in nature with only 43% positive. Women and those aged 18-34 were most likely to give select negative emotions.
Australians have mostly been feeling “stressed”, “anxious” and “exhausted” in recent weeks. From a balanced mix of 32 emotions, we found that 57% of selected emotions were negative and 43% positive.
The 2022 Federal Election is one that is going to be fought on the bread-and-butter issues of healthcare and cost of living.
It also suggests, as the incumbent, Scott Morrison may be vulnerable to a well-targeted campaign on health by Anthony Albanese, similar to the campaign waged by Labor in South Australia. There, Premier Peter Malinauskas’ successful campaign centered on healthcare. On the flip side, the Coalition’s traditional trump card of economic management is the way to connect with undecided voters who report being concerned about personal economic impacts.
The Prime Minister will head into an election campaign with an increasingly anxious electorate. Underlining the line-ball nature of the public mood, Australians are split 50/50 on whether the nation is heading in the right or wrong direction with those in NSW most likely to be pessimistic about the direction of their state.
All eyes will be on the Federal Budget after which we expect a short sales campaign from the Coalition before it heads to the polls in May. For a full Federal Budget analysis and breakdown, see our post-budget brief this week.
Contact us for more information about the full research report. We’ll be reporting on tracker results every month in 2022.
Sue Vercoe, Managing Director, SEC Newgate Research – [email protected]
David Stolper, Special Counsel, SEC Newgate Research – [email protected]
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