Public concern about coronavirus rose this week for the first time since the peak of the crisis more than three months ago. This is an apparent reaction to the fresh outbreak of cases in Victoria. Prompted concern about the virus rose from 63% last week to 69%, a sharp reversal in sentiment after 13 weeks of steadily declining anxiety.
It is one of a number of measures in our 16th wave of research that shows progress has stumbled after weeks of growing national confidence and optimism. This week nearly half (48%) predict the virus spread will get worse in one month and 29% say it will get worse in three months, significantly more than last week (32% and 23% respectively). These results will be of concern to governments seeking to manage a return to more normal conditions.
Results from our survey of more than 1,200 Australians taken Monday 22 June to Wednesday 24 June also show:
While concern about both the virus spread and the economy was stronger across all states, Victorians were the most pessimistic. They were more likely to say unprompted that the virus is Australia’s number one issue (53% vs. 39% in other states). They were significantly more likely to feel the virus would get worse in the next month (58% vs. 45% in other states), and to feel the economy would get worse in the next three months (74% vs. 59% in other states). Victorians were also more likely to have worn a face mask (23% vs. 15% in other states) and more likely to act in a way that is more careful than COVID-19 restrictions require (47% vs. 39% in other states).
The majority continue to believe Australians are responding at an appropriate manner but there is increasing belief that we are not taking the issue seriously enough: 76% say Australia is responding at an appropriate level but 16% now say we are not taking the issue seriously enough, up from 11% three weeks ago. There was a significant increase in the proportion who feel that restrictions are being lifted too quickly (35% compared to 29% last week), particularly in Victoria (44% vs 32% elsewhere). However, half (51%) felt they were being eased at the right pace (51%).
Despite an increase in concern about coronavirus this week, the majority continue to agree that government has in place fair and reasonable restrictions (79%), is taking appropriate measures to protect people’s health (76%), is protecting businesses (71%), supporting those in financial difficulty (73%) and is communicating clearly (76%). However, Australia’s business community and large employers (46%) and employers generally (40%) saw a dip in the ratings of their performance in dealing with coronavirus this week, possibly a reaction to job layoffs announced in recent days.
In a new measure about confidence using various types of transport we found that around two in five currently feel ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ confident about using taxis, uber and various forms of public transport with three in five feeling ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ confident. Victorians are less confident about using trains and buses than those in other states. Only 28% feel confident getting on a plane with 45% saying they are ‘not confident at all’.
The number of people who say they understand the current virus rules and what they are expected to do stayed steady at 80% this week. That includes 89% among those who speak a language other than English at home. There was an increase in those who disagree that they are tired of hearing about coronavirus and are not paying close attention to government updates and instructions (50% up from 44% last week).