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The aim of this paper is to use data collected during January 2023 and Australia’s recent history to take stock of Australia’s wellbeing, as well as its attitudes towards key political and social institutions as Australia enters a post-COVID world. The data was collected by the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods, in partnership with the Social Research Centre, from a representative sample of Australians as part of the ANUpoll series of surveys. The January 2023 survey collected data from 3,370 Australians aged 18 years and over.
Wellbeing in Australia, whether measured by life satisfaction or psychological distress has improved substantially since their lowest levels during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although psychological distress is now back to pre-pandemic levels, life satisfaction is still lower than late 2019/early 2020. Measures of financial stress are now higher than pre-pandemic, as almost half of Australians think that rising prices are a ‘very big problem.’
Australians are more confident in the federal government than they have been since the height of the ‘rally-around-the-flag’ period in 2020, with almost twice as many Australians confident in their government now compared to January 2020. Over the longer term, there has been some declines in confidence in institutions (in particular churches and religions institutions), but Australians are as confident in the federal government in 2023 as they were in 2008, and even more confident in the public service. More than three-quarters of Australians are satisfied with democracy in Australia and a little under three-quarters are satisfied with the direction of the country.
There are even fewer Australians in January 2023 that supported statements related to populism compared to August 2018. Australians also do not appear to be demanding a much greater role for government since just prior to the pandemic. Indeed, apart from support for the unemployed, there are many areas of policy for which fewer Australians think governments should have a role to play.
There are groups within the population that are far less satisfied, either with their own lives or with institutions in Australia. Those with low levels of education, low income, or who are unemployed/permanently excluded from the labour market due to health conditions or a disability were all found to be of concern for many of the measures analysed in this paper.