SEC Newgate Mood of the Nation - October 2023

Australians are feeling more despondent than ever about the future and are worried about a bleak economic outlook that’s predicted to get worse before it gets better. 

In Brief

  • Nearly two-thirds of Australians (63 percent) believe the country is heading in the wrong direction – the worst figure since Mood of the Nation tracking began
  • Only 18 percent of Australians agree corporates are “behaving ethically and doing the right thing”, with excessive profits and price increases among the common complaints
  • Support for the speed of Australia’s energy transition remains strong, but has begun to decline slightly

SEC Newgate’s latest Mood of the Nation survey finds national sentiment has further declined as the ramifications of the voice referendum process and outcome are absorbed and the spectre of further interest rate hikes feeds into ongoing cost-of-living concerns.

The sombre national mood is reflected in a drop in the number of people who believe the Federal Government is doing a good job, down to 32 percent from 39 percent in June. But there is better news for the Minns Government in New South Wales with 41 percent praising its performance, up from 37 percent in August.

Widespread pessimism towards national future

In a wakeup call for all political leaders, nearly two-thirds of Australians (63 percent) believe the country is heading in the wrong direction. This compares to 57 percent in August and is the worst figure since the Mood of the Nation survey began nearly two years ago. Australians say their worsening mood is being driven by growing cost of living stress, work-related pressures, disappointment with the referendum and anxiety over global tensions. The study also reveals a sharp gender and age divide with women and middle-aged Australians more likely to feel negative.

With Treasurer Jim Chalmers stepping up preparations for next month’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, Australians are overwhelmingly gloomy about the prospects for the national economy. Just one-quarter of those surveyed believe the economy will improve over the coming 12 months (down 6 percent since August) and only 50 percent think it will improve in three years (down 8 percent), suggesting bread-and-butter economic issues will resonate strongly with voters at the next Federal Election.

Corporates seen to be behaving poorly amidst cost-of-living pressures

Corporate Australia is also under pressure with only 18 percent agreeing they are “behaving ethically and doing the right thing” (down 3 percent) with 46 percent disagreeing. Key pain points include perceptions of excessive profits, unjustified price increases, tax avoidance, political interference, stagnant wages (especially in relation to executive pay) and the treatment of employees. The minority with a positive view spoke of their efforts to become more sustainable, address climate change, use Australian-made products and keep prices stable.

Support for the energy transition begins to wane, and drought preparedness comes into question

As the Government unveils new measures to bolster the energy transition, 57 percent feel positive about the transition to renewables (vs 20 percent negative) – although support has moderated slightly. Solar energy remains the most popular source of renewable energy with 78 percent backing new solar farms.

While Opposition leader Peter Dutton has campaigned against offshore wind projects in the NSW Hunter region, the survey shows strong and almost equal support for both onshore and offshore wind farms. Nuclear energy – which the Coalition is preparing to campaign on at the next election – remains a polarising issue, with 38 percent supporting Australia’s embrace of nuclear energy, against 35 percent who are opposed. However, nuclear is more popular than either gas or coal as a source of energy to power Australia’s electricity grid.

With Australia’s environmental approval laws under review, support to simplify and streamline planning approvals for renewable projects has also jumped to 57 percent, up from 50 percent, with around half of Australians still believing that the transition is not moving fast enough.

This edition of the Mood of the Nation also has a special focus on water issues. Asked about water management options for the Murray Darling Basin we found a strong preference for system and farm efficiency programs (56 percent believe this should be the top priority) with just 13 percent believing that water buy-backs should be the main focus. In addition, Australians felt water allocation out of the Murray Darling system should prioritise town water supply first (49 percent) followed by food and fibre production (27 percent) and then environmental flows (24 percent). The preference for prioritising town, food and fibre uses over environmental flows was stronger in metropolitan areas than regional areas. Finally, less than half (44 percent) feel confident that their state is properly prepared for droughts with Queenslanders particularly worried about this.


Contact us for more information about the full Mood of the Nation research report.

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

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



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