There has been very little research to date investigating attitudes to homelessness in Australia. Such research is important as public opinion can influence both political will to act and the viability of different policy responses.
Attitudes also shape the way the community responds to those who are disadvantaged.
Using data collected through the 2007 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes on homelessness, this study investigated attitudes of the Australian community about the perceived causes of homelessness and responsibility for addressing it.
Exploratory principal component analysis revealed an underlying structure to participants’ responses. Three components or response patterns emerged, with participants viewing homelessness as a problem: with external causes requiring government solutions; of collective responsibility; with individual causes, where individuals and their families are responsible for resolution. This finding is consistent with some studies from the United States and United Kingdom that show that attitudes to homelessness are complex and do not necessarily align with the structural/individual dichotomy in a straightforward way.
Demographic factors such as age, sex, class, educational attainment and political affiliation were explored as predictors of attitudes. While some significant relationships were found, multiple regression analysis revealed that these factors explained very little of the overall variance in attitudes to homelessness. This has implications for public opinion research on homelessness, which has focused largely on demographic attributes as predictors of attitudes.