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Woke up call: Australians’ attitudes to and perceptions of "wokeness"

Freedom of speech Social issues Public opinion Political correctness Australia

Given the context in which the term 'woke' is used in media commentary, it may surprise readers to discover – for example – that only one in five people who described themselves as woke ahead of the 2022 federal election intended to vote for the Greens; less than the share of woke people who intended to vote for the Coalition.

Testing our assumptions and presumptions is one of the key benefits of opinion polling, which is why the Australia Institute polled Australians in April 2022 on whether they consider themselves woke and how they would define the term.

Among those familiar with the term woke, a positive definition (being alert to racial injustice) is preferred to a negative one (punishing people for thinking the 'wrong' things). Even those who would not describe themselves as woke are as likely to give the term woke the positive definition as they are the negative one.

These results may reflect the indiscriminate use of the term woke by its detractors in politics and the media. Having been told that the UK monarchy, the Wiggles, the Australian cricket team, Pope Francis and the Disney Corporation are woke, Australians may conclude that the woke are in good company.

The use of woke as a pejorative has failed to cut through. A majority of Australians are either unfamiliar with the term or would describe themselves as woke. Those who are familiar with the term woke, would not consider themselves woke and ascribe a negative definition to the term are a small minority in this country.

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