SEC Newgate Mood of the Nation - first post-election survey

Voters think they chose the right team, but economic gloom is increasing

Summary 

  • Although Australians think the country is heading in the right direction, we are increasingly anxious about the outlook 
  • The cost of living continues to surge as a national priority 
  • Independents are supported as good for Australia 
  • Both major parties lost voters, with nearly a third of voters switching parties or candidates 
  • A majority support an Indigenous Voice to Parliament 

Following the election of the Albanese government, our first Mood of the Nation tracker undertaken since the poll shows confidence in the people’s choice at the ballot box but increasing anxiety driven by the cost of living and the economic outlook.

Labor inherits an increasingly anxious nation

54% of Australians think the country is heading in the right direction, up significantly from 47% in April. Interestingly, 56% of regional Australians feel their local community is heading in the right direction but this is significantly lower than 66% of those living in metropolitan areas.

THOSE MORE LIKELY TO SAY AUSTRALIA IS HEADING IN THE ‘RIGHT DIRECTION’
Aged 18-24 (63%)
Labor supporters (61%)
Metro residents (56%)
THOSE MORE LIKELY TO SAY AUSTRALIA IS HEADING IN THE ‘WRONG DIRECTION’
Identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander (66%)
Unemployed (60%)
Single parents of children aged under 18 (59%)
Business owners (57%)
Those who live in areas who have recently experienced natural disaster (52%)
Those who have a chronic health condition (52%)

 

However, a growing number of Australians are feeling a range of negative emotions (59%, up from 56% in April). The national mood may be partly driven by increased pessimism about the predicted direction of the economy in the next 3 months (36% feel it will get worse, up from 30% in April) and over the next 12 months (38%, up from 31%).

A word cloud demonstrating that most Australians were "Stressed," "Anxious" or "Exhausted," according to the May 2022 SEC Newgate Mood of the Nation Report.

Cost of living continues to surge as a national priority

Without prompting, half of all Australians (50%) mentioned cost of living as an issue that is most important to them right now (up from 46% in April and 29% in March). Grocery prices are the most concerning aspect (30%) but there is growing concern about petrol prices (22%, up from 15%) and mortgage repayments (15%, up from 11%).

“Investing in quality affordable healthcare and reducing cost increases for household bills remain the top priorities. Cost of living and climate change had high political heat scores and were key issues for voters.”

Dr David Stolper, Special Counsel, Research

Cost of Living Aspect Most Concerned About (% Extremely Important)

COVID concerns in freefall with climate policies a key vote winner

The importance of COVID as a national issue continues to drop with only 10% mentioning it unprompted as an important issue (down from 21% in April and 32% in March). However, 24% mentioned climate change (up from 20% in April) and it continues to have the third highest “political heat score” of our 32 national priorities with 19% selecting it as a top-3 issue.

‘It’s Time’ factor was an overwhelming sentiment at the election but both major parties lost voters

A fascinating picture emerges when analysing how we voted. Nearly a third (29%) say they switched to a different party or candidate at this election, with the Greens and Independents scooping up most of the switchers:

  1. Some 28% of Labor voters voted for someone else in 2019, compared with only 13% of those who voted for the Coalition this election. Labor switchers were more likely to be middle-aged aged men and it has regained some traction with its traditional base.
  2. However, 38% of Greens voters were new supporters of the party and this rises to a staggering 82% of people who voted for Independents this election (Teals and others but excluding minor parties).
  3. The Greens and Independents picked up the female vote en masse, with around three-quarters of independent voters (77%) doing so because of their disapproval of another candidate or party.

The rise of the Independents considered a good thing for the country 

Around half (52%) of Australians felt the success of Independents was good for Australia. Many first-time Independent voters expressed the view that they had not had a viable (and in some cases moderate) choice in 2019 and this confirms the importance of strong candidate selection to the Teal wave.

The stated reasons for switching to an Independent include:

  • Dislike/disillusioned with the major parties (inc. COVID response, lockdowns, lack of trust, perceived corruption).
  • Having a new voting option that wasn’t previously there.
  • Dissatisfaction with the Prime Minister.
  • Poor performance of the Coalition government (e.g., COVID management, climate change, vaccination mandates).
  • Wanting more action on climate change.
  • Sending a message that local people and issues can’t be taken for granted.

What they said: voters who switched to Independents

“This country needs to change. Our government has sold us out.”

“For the first time in an election there was a real alternative candidate which appealed to a moderate viewpoint.”

Housing policy not a decisive factor

The final weeks of the campaign saw a flurry of housing policy announcements. Interestingly, the Coalition’s “downsizer” reforms had the highest support (52% vs 18% oppose) whereas its plan to allow first home buyer to access super was more controversial (40% support and 40% oppose). There was little enthusiasm for Labor’s policy of partial Government investment in private homes (38% support), but overall, it was still considered the best party to handle the issue of housing affordability (42% vs 25% for the Coalition).

Support for a First Nations Voice

The new Prime Minister’s acceptance speech began with a powerful commitment to the Uluru Statement of the Heart and our survey results show solid majority support for its core goal of an Indigenous Voice to Parliament (59% support and 16% oppose). Of course, this is ahead of any deep public discussion with the issue “off-the-radar” of most Australians.

What’s next?

The Government has certainly hit the ground running but this month’s results suggest they may not enjoy as long an election honeymoon period as they may have hoped for given the gathering economic storm.

Federal Parliament returns in July, with new Treasurer Jim Chalmers set to provide an economic update. This update will be an important frame as the government prepares for its job summit in September, followed by an October Budget.

Notes about the survey

There were 1,403 Australian participants in this online survey aged 18+. Quotas were set on gender, age and location. Data was weighted to ABS Census population statistics on age, gender, location and occupation. Fieldwork was conducted from 23 to 27 May, after the Federal Election.

Contacts

Contact us for more information about the full research report. We’ll be reporting on tracker results every month in 2022.

Sue Vercoe, Managing Director, SEC Newgate Research – sue.vercoe@secnewgate.com.au

David Stolper, Special Counsel, SEC Newgate Research – david.stolper@secnewgate.com.au

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