SEC Newgate Mood of the Nation - February 2024

Signs of significant positive shift in public mood, while Stage 3 tax cuts win widespread support.

In Brief

  • For the first time since the pandemic lifted two years ago, more Australians are feeling positive than negative about the 12-month economic outlook
  • Labor’s announced changes to the Stage 3 tax cuts have enjoyed strong support, while there is also in-principle support for wider tax reform
  • The perceived performance of the Federal Government has increased, along with all State Governments except for Victoria

SEC Newgate’s latest Mood of the Nation survey finds that Australians are feeling good about the economic prospects for the next 12 months, for the first time since the pandemic lifted two years ago.

In the first instalment of the survey for 2024, there is growing, but guarded optimism as Australia responds positively to tax cuts and expectations of falling inflation, heralding a potential drop in interest rates before the end of the year.

Long-awaited return to positive economic outlook

This month sees a significant increase in the proportion who feel the economy will improve in 12 months (a 14 percent shift up to 39 percent in October). It is the first time since May 2022 that Australians have crossed over from pessimism to optimism on the 12-month outlook. However, this is guarded optimism, with 60 percent either “not very confident” or “not confident at all” that inflation will fall over this period.

Meanwhile, the decline in national confidence may have begun turning around. While 56 percent of Australians still think Australia is moving in the wrong direction, this is down from 63 percent, representing a 7 percent positive shift in confidence. Most states recorded upward shifts, including West Australians (65 percent), who are most confident that their state is heading in the right direction, while Victoria recorded the lowest score (41 percent).

Bounce-back after Voice pessimism

The gap between negative and positive feelings in the Australian community is also closing. Personal moods are at a 12-month high with 42 percent selecting mostly positive emotions to describe how they have been feeling in recent weeks. This is up significantly from 34 percent in October.

This mood shift is most noticeable in Queensland, with new Premier Stephen Miles following the exit of Anastasia Palaszcuk. Miles’ rise to Queensland’s top job appears to have improved the local mood, with a 10 percent lift in people feeling the state is heading in the right direction (44 percent up from 34 percent). There was also a significant improvement in State Government performance, albeit from a low base, with 36 percent feeling the Government under the new leadership is doing a good or better job – up from 27 percent last October.

Corporates struggling for public support while cost-of-living concerns remain

Disapproval for large corporates is edging higher, with 47 percent of Australians not believing that large companies operating in Australia are behaving ethically, or doing the right thing – up from 39 percent in April last year. Only 19 percent believe they have an ethical approach, while that support falls to 14 percent amongst women (24 percent for men).

Australians want a wider tax reform discussion, holding concerns about over-reliance on income tax

On the back of Labor’s announced changes to the Stage 3 tax cuts, the survey asked respondents for their views, while also gauging the mood for further structural reform. A clear majority of Australians (60 percent) support the proposed changes to Stage 3, with only 21 percent opposed. There is also in-principle support for broader tax reforms, including loosening the reliance on income tax and a wider debate on tax options and reforms for the future.

Meanwhile, the cost-of-living crisis persists, with concerns about grocery prices remaining high (87 percent, with 62 percent highly concerned), while insurance premiums have risen to 71 percent. Concerns about electricity bills (75 percent), petrol prices (78 percent), and water bills (58 percent) have all slipped marginally, and 87 percent of renters remain concerned about their rental payments.

However, high personal financial stress remains; unchanged since the last survey, 43 percent of Australians are experiencing financial difficulty, and the proportion having “a lot of difficulty” has ticked up from 10 to 12 percent. Of that group, those most likely to be experiencing financial difficulties include renters (63 percent), 35 to 49 year-olds (49 percent) and women (49 percent).

% Total Men Women 18-34 35-49 50+
Total doing well / okay 57 63 51 56 51 60
Total having difficulty 43 37 49 44 49 40


Labor continues to hold political edge on cost-of-living

The Albanese Government continues to retain a slimming lead over the Coalition on managing cost-of-living issues. Confidence dipped following the Voice referendum loss, but this has since rebounded, and the ALP is maintaining a 3 percent lead over the coalition on this key matter (32 percent vs 29 percent).

The overall perceived performance of the Federal Government has edged a little higher, with a 2 percent increase in the proportion who feel it is doing a “good” or better job (34 percent up from 32 percent). Confidence in almost all the states also increased; only Victoria had a negative view of its State Government, with 35 percent rating it poor or very poor, compared to 33 percent rating it good or very good.


Contact us for more information about the full Mood of the Nation research report or if we can help you navigate community or stakeholder sentiment or expectations.

David Stolper, Partner, SEC Newgate Research – [email protected]

Sue Vercoe, Managing Director, SEC Newgate Research – [email protected]

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