Australians appear comfortable with the current level of government control around day-to-day life and the pace of easing restrictions, but there is still a high level of concern (65% extremely or quite concerned) that we need to guard against a possible second wave.
Results suggest there is currently a strong level of trust in the Federal and state governments, with the community willing to follow their lead regardless of where they live or the different level of restrictions that apply in their state.
Nevertheless our 15th weekly tracking survey, taken Monday 15 June to Wednesday 17 June, shows the community is wary of easing restrictions around large-scale events too early and are cautious when it comes to opening international borders. Please find link to coverage of today’s research in the SMH/ THE AGE
In the first real measure of community reaction to the recent protest meetings in major cities, only 14% believe large protests should be allowed at the moment, even if hygiene and social distancing measures are in place.
A similar low number say it is too early right now for large numbers of spectators at concerts or sports venues. However there is a greater shift in sentiment when Australians are asked to consider which large events should be allowed in coming weeks.
By the end of July, 41% say spectators at large sporting events should be allowed, while 34% say music concerts should be allowed with 31% say large protests should be allowed – with social distancing in place.
Two in three Australians (64%) want State borders to open by the end of July, but a lower percentage (26%) feel they should be open immediately. In results which suggest those in each state are taking their cue from their own Premiers, in NSW (78%) are most keen to see borders open by the end of July with WA least keen (40%) and Queensland in the middle of the pack (64%).
While only 18% thought it would be appropriate to open up our international borders so that people from overseas can travel to Australia by the end of July, a significantly higher number, four in ten (42%), felt it would be appropriate for international students to be allowed in as long as they are quarantined for two weeks upon arrival.
Those most likely to support this included those aged 18-24, men, full-time workers, those whose household income is over $60k and those who are able to work from home. Those less likely to support it include part-time or casual workers (who may be competing with international students for jobs) as well as women, those aged 25+ and those who care for someone with a physical or mental disability.
Measures related to concern about the coronavirus and the economy have remained fairly stable this week, with 63% extremely or quite concerned about coronavirus and 80% extremely or quite concerned about the economy. Expectations of the virus spread and improvements to the economy over various timeframes has also remained stable.
As flagged last week, trends in consumer spending appear to be closely mirroring concern about coronavirus, with 31% saying they spent less money than they normally would in the past week compared with 55% in early April.
As highlighted above, there remains very strong support for Australia’s approach to handling COVID-19 and the Federal Government continues to receive strong performance ratings on a range of measures, with around three-quarters agreeing they are taking appropriate measures to protect people’s health, Australian businesses and those facing financial difficulties, and that restrictions are fair and reasonable.
This week nearly six in ten are comfortable that restrictions are being lifted at the right pace (57% up from 48% four weeks ago), with just 14% say they are being eased too slowly and 29% too quickly. There has been a decline in the proportion who agree the restrictions are making their day to day life difficult (27% down from 30% last week and 42% eight weeks ago), showing the gradual easing of restrictions is alleviating some of social pressures people are feeling.
Interestingly people living in NSW, which has had the highest number of cases and appears to be in vanguard of easing restrictions, were more likely to say they are being lifted too quickly (36%).
In a new measure, 81% agree they clearly understand what the current rules and restrictions are and what they’re expected to do, while just 6% disagree. More than half (54%) say their behaviour is consistent with what is required, with four in ten (38%) being more careful and only 9% more relaxed.
Only one in five workers (19%) say they have returned to their usual workplace in some capacity, although this figure is expected to rise to 74% within three months. Previous results show that 24% of the workforce reported working from home a least one day a week pre-COVID. Currently 57% are working from home one day a week and this number has been increasing rather than decreasing over the last couple of weeks. On average workers are working from home 2.3 days per week. Certainly there are strong indications we’ll be seeing a more permanent shift in flexible working arrangements.
Australians are largely happy to play by the rules their governments are setting on COVID-19, however as the economic impacts (particularly on jobs) become clearer, we can expect pressure on the community to return to normal life, albeit with adjustments to manage the ongoing contagion risks.