Exposure and the impact on attitudes of the 2019-20 Australian Bushfires

Exposure and the impact on attitudes of the 2019-20 Australian Bushfires
Author/editor: Biddle, N, Edwards, B, Herz, D & Makkai, T
Year published: 2020


The bushfires that occurred over the 2019/20 Australian spring and summer were unprecedented in scale and wide in their geographic impact. Between 20 January and 3 February 2020, the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods and the Social Research Centre collected data from more than three thousand Australian adults about their exposure to the bushfires, as well as a range of other attitudes and beliefs. We estimate that the vast majority of Australians (78.6 per cent) were impacted in one way or another either directly, through their family/friends, or through the physical effects of smoke. Furthermore, we estimate that around 2.9 million adult Australians had their property damaged, their property threatened, or had to be evacuated. This is the first estimate of self-reported impacts on that scale from a nationally representative, probability-based survey. Our survey findings also show that subjective wellbeing amongst the Australian population has declined since the start of spring 2019, people are less satisfied with the direction of the country, and have less confidence in the Federal Government. People are more likely, however, to think that the environment and climate change are issues and a potential threat to them, with a significant decline in the proportion of people who support new coal mines. By linking individuals through time, we are also able to show that some of these changes are attributable to exposure to the bushfires.

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