Examining the most important issues in Australia: similarities and differences across two generations

Global environmental change Public opinion Australia

In this report, we present findings from survey data collected in 2017 from participants of the two Life Patterns Project cohorts. In 2017, cohort 1 participants were aged 43 – 44 years (corresponding to generation X) and cohort 2 were aged 28 – 29 years (corresponding to generation Y).

In 2017, we included an open text question in the questionnaires for both cohorts asking our participants to nominate the three most important issues facing Australia. Almost all of cohort 1 participants and three-quarters of cohort 2 participants provided answers to this question.

Our analysis of their responses shows that one major issue unites both generations: concern about the environment/ climate change. Other areas of concern tended to reflect people’s life stage. For cohort 1, who are the older cohort, the other most important issues were the cost of living, security and terrorism, education and the economy. For cohort 2, the other most important issues were the lack of jobs/ job security, drug abuse, housing affordability and health.

Members of cohort 1 and cohort 2 are in different stages of the life course with cohort 1 members being more likely than members of cohort 2 to be in long term relationships and parenting. This report shows that the distinctive experiences of each generation in time (such as their experiences of education, work and the nature of the housing market), have an effect on how they see the world.

We conclude that both generations present a challenge to policy-makers to take their concerns about the environment more seriously, and to ensure that young people’s concerns about jobs and job security, housing and health (especially mental health) are a prompt to ensure that we do not create a ‘precarious generation’.

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