Three quarters of Australians are optimistic about 2021 - end of year special report

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Special report card: how we’re feeling after the year of the pandemic

As we go to press with concerns around a new cluster outbreak on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, our final coronavirus tracker in 2020 – which was conducted ahead of this news – shows three quarters (76%) of Australians are cautiously optimistic about 2021. Concern about coronavirus was at similar levels to those we saw in early March and before the second Victorian wave in June. Bouncing back after a shocker of a year, Victoria is the most optimistic state (77%).

Meanwhile, now vaccines have arrived overseas and are close to approval here, enthusiasm for getting the jab has tempered a little. Now 64% would definitely or probably use a free vaccine if trials showed it was safe and effective, down 10 points (74%) from early September. Over the same time, those who say they definitely or probably won’t get jabbed has doubled to 14%. After months of keeping the rest of Australia out, Queenslanders were least likely to want to take the vaccine (16%). It looks like government has a job ahead to reassure the public.

In a special report this week, we asked Australians how they fared in 2020. There are some interesting answers – it seems the crisis has strengthened our personal relationships and made us into better savers. However, our mental health has taken a battering, with an absence of simple fun in our lives. Read on for all the data.

Virus well down the list of concerns

In the 41st wave of our weekly survey, which was in field Monday to Wednesday this week and had a sample of more than 1,500 Australians, just over a third (35%) mentioned coronavirus as the top issue facing Australia. As the chart below shows, prompted concern about the virus has hit a record low of 60%, down from a peak of 92% in March. 

Optimism on the rise

As concerns about the virus ease, economic optimism continues to improve. Around 44% now say the economy will get better in three months (up from 15% four months ago), and two thirds say it will get better in a year (66% up from 45% over that same period). In related findings, just 22% say they spent less than usual in the last seven days – down from a peak of 55% in April. 

Precautions slipping

As concerns about the virus drop so too do reported precautionary behaviours. We’ve seen drops in those who report avoiding contact with people outside the home in the last seven days (27% down from 77% in April), staying home more than usual (28% down from 77%), and avoiding visiting the elderly (16% down from 54%). The likelihood to wear a mask is the lowest figure recorded in the study (57%) and this week we have seen a significant increase in the proportion who say they probably or definitely wouldn’t wear a mask if they went somewhere where social distancing is difficult (21% up from 17%).

Back in the office

In another nod to normality, 42% of workers are now back five or more days a week in their office or workplace, up from 29% at the beginning of October. Eight in 10 (81%) of those who normally work outside of the home worked at least one day at their usual premises. Victorians remain the least likely to have worked at their usual work premise for at least one day (66%). Still, most people say they don’t intend to return to their usual place of work for as many days as they did pre-covid, with many keen to work from home on at least some of their work days.

Report Card on 2020

Challenging, lonely, frustrating

When asked to write one word that best describes how 2020 felt to them personally, most were negative and described it as “challenging”, “lonely”, “frustrating”, “different” and even “shit” or “crap”. 

A year to get closer

As the chart below shows, there have been both upsides and downsides to people’s personal experience of life during the pandemic. It also illustrates that the pandemic has been unkind in creating some ‘winners and losers’:

  • There were significant personal health negatives, with 44% feeling more stress and anxiety and feeling their mental health (35%) and physical health (30%) has been poorer. More than half (51%) said they had experienced less fun in their life during 2020. Some 31% thought they had lost connection with their local community, although 15% also thought this had improved in their lives.
  • Job security was worse for 33%. Some 38% said their financial situation had worsened, however 20% believed their finances had actually improved. Some 33% were less confident about major financial purchases. While 33% said their savings had taken a hit, 27% felt they had improved despite the vast expansion of internet shopping this year.
  • On the upside, 26% felt their relationship with their children and with their partner had improved during 2020. A further 18% thought their children were happier.
  • On the work front, there were mixed views about whether commutes and work-life balance had improved or got worse.

Thanks for your support!

Thanks for sticking with us on this 41-week journey! SEC Newgate Research started this tracker in the early stages of the pandemic as Australia faced up to an unpredictable threat. We had no idea how long the tracker would run or how popular it would prove to be among our clients and friends. Many of you have told us our summary notes are essential reading, which makes it worth the hours we’ve spent on it.

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