Australians’ Optimism takes a hit: first poll of 2021

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First tracker poll of 2021 shows confusion about vaccines

Most Australians still agree the Australian Open and Grand Prix should be held but national support has eroded significantly, with around three in five (61%) saying the events should go ahead, compared with late November when support was at 82% and 79% respectively.
SEC Newgate’s first national coronavirus tracker poll of 2021 also found that 82% believe international tennis players should quarantine for 14 days, and 66% believe the money being spent bringing the players to Australia would have been better spent helping stranded Australians come home. Those who disagreed with bringing home Australians felt they had already had enough time to get home (47% noted this), that the Open was an exception that was good for the economy (42%) or that the Government should not fund the costs of returning Australians (41%). Victorians’ views aligned with the rest of the nation.
Our survey of 1,528 Australians, taken Monday 18 January to Wednesday 20 January, suggests that in light of the Northern Beaches outbreak and the escalating virus crisis in the US and UK, Australians’ optimism has slipped and they are reassessing their outlook for 2021. Unprompted concern about the virus has shot up 16 points since our last survey in mid-December and it is back on par with the economy as the nation’s top prompted concern.
A significant number are unsure or confused about vaccine safety and effectiveness.  Due to lingering concerns about quarantine protections, support for relaxing border controls and travel restrictions has also fallen.

Mixed reactions on vaccination

Over half of Australians (56%) continue to feel the Government’s vaccination program is moving at an appropriate pace, down 8 points from December (64%) with those feeling it is moving too slowly increasing 6 points to 17%. Intention to be vaccinated remains steady at 64%. However, we also asked new questions and found:

  • Most believe the program is prioritising the right groups to get the vaccine (66% agree vs 9% disagree) and feel confident about the program overall (53% agree vs 19% disagree).
  • However, some 56% are extremely or quite concerned about people not complying with advice to get vaccinated.
  • 53% are extremely or quite concerned about vaccine effectiveness.
  • 50% are extremely or quite concerned about the safety of vaccines.


Pre-Christmas optimism reassessed downwards

  • Significantly fewer Australians feel the spread of the virus will improve in 1 month (27%, down from 18%) or in 3 months (39%, down from 47%). The 1-year outlook for the virus also dipped 4 points to 62%. 
  • Optimism about the economy has also declined significantly. Only 33% now believe the economy will improve in three months compared to 44% last wave, while 58% believe it will improve in a year (down from 66%).
  • While most Australians remain optimistic about 2021, the level of optimism has fallen significantly from 76% in mid-December to 67% this wave.


Consensus holding on handling of recent outbreaks

The handling of recent outbreaks appears to have been generally well received with an overwhelming majority (81%) continuing to agree Australia’s response to coronavirus is appropriate. On government performance, though, fewer agree it is taking appropriate measures to support people with financial difficulties (62% agree, down from 67% in December) or to protect Australian businesses (63% down from 67%).

Significant increase in mask wearing

Since December, we have seen a huge rise in the proportion who have worn a mask in the last 7 days, (59%, up from 40%) as well as significant increases in those who have stayed home more than usual (38%, up from 28%), especially in NSW and QLD.

Borders stay in place

Support for opening state borders in one month has dropped to from 74% in mid-December to 57% this wave. Support for opening the international border within three months has dropped for both for NZ (71%, down from 83%) and international students (49%, down from 56%). Support for overseas visitors returning within three months also dropped 2 points to just 30%.

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