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.
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.
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.
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%).
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.
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”.
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’:
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.