Economic concerns grow as the experience of COVID-19 continues to impact on the lives and livelihood of Australians.

The Ipsos Issues Monitor is Australia’s longest running ongoing survey of community concerns.

We conducted our monthly survey of 1,000 Australians in early September 2020 as part of our ongoing pursuit of understanding Australian society and citizens. Through our regular look at what is concerning Australians we shed light on the impact of today’s changing world.

In June, as daily COVID-19 case numbers continued to drop, we observed the COVID-19 pandemic shift from a health emergency to an economic emergency. Concerns around Healthcare had dropped rapidly from an April record high of 55% to a substantially lower 24% in June. At the same time concern surrounding The Economy and Unemployment remained high as the financial impact of restrictions continued to bite.

The COVID-19 second wave grew in July and peaked early the following month with almost 750 new daily cases. Concern over Healthcare again increased, however at 40% in August it was still well below the level seen in April. As Victoria went into Stage 4 lockdown, concern over The Economy and Unemployment both hit new record highs in the August Ipsos Issues Monitor reflecting the cumulative impact of five months of COVID-19 restrictions on Australian businesses and households.

During the most recent September fieldwork period daily new COVID-19 case numbers in Australia were dropping from around 125 to just under 50 per day, substantially lower than the August peak. Similar to what occurred in May, concern around Healthcare again dropped (to 34%) in September as the daily numbers dropped, although less sharply than in May. 

The Economy continued to lead as the top issue facing Australians with concern reaching a new high of 56%. This reflected the growing discontent voiced across the country around the effect of restrictions and border closures on the ability of businesses to survive, and the potential economic pain reductions in Job Keeper and Job Seeker would add to the situation.

August Labour Force data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (17 Sept) shows the unemployment rate at 6.8%, 0.7 points lower than July, dropping for the first time since they rose rapidly from 5.1% at the start of the year. These official statistics are mirrored in the level of concern we are seeing in our Issues Monitor. Unemployment remains the issue of second highest concern, although it has dropped four points since August to 44%.
Cost of Living (24%), the Environment (20%) and Crime (19%) have all had small increases in levels of concern in September.

When we look at perceptions of which party is most capable of managing these top issues, the gap between the Coalition and the ALP narrowed between our August and September surveys.

Although the Coalition remains ahead of the ALP on a majority of measures, in September the gap between the two on ability to manage The Economy dropped 15 points (26% to 11%), for Unemployment it fell seven points (9% to 2%) and on Cost of Living the difference narrowed 10 points (15% to 5%). On Healthcare the gap reversed by seven points (6% to -1%) to be a narrow 1-point gap in favour of the ALP. There is no change on the ability of the main parties to manage the Environment with the Coalition remaining one point higher than the Greens and seven points higher than the ALP.

Click here to download the previous Ipsos Issues Monitor COVID 19 August Edition.

Click here to access previous Ipsos Issues Monitor Reports.

Society