In this paper we present data from a set of representative surveys of the Australian population (the ANUpoll series of surveys) to examine the changes in political and policy attitudes over three Januarys – January 2020 at the height of the Black Summer bushfire crisis, January 2021 as Australia was still pursuing a COVID-zero policy, and January 2022 towards the peak of the Omicron-wave of the pandemic and as borders had just begun to be opened and restrictions eased.
We find large swings in voting intentions. The per cent of Australians who said they would vote for the Coalition was quite low (35.4 per cent) in January 2020 relative to the results of the Federal Election that occurred in May of 2019. By January 2021, during the middle of Australia’s COVID-zero era but before issues with vaccine supply had started to emerge, the per cent of Australians who said that they would vote for the Coalition had increased significantly to 40.3 per cent. By January 2022 however, the per cent of Australians who said they would vote for the Coalition was not only lower than the rest of the COVID-19 period, but was even lower than the Black Summer bushfire period. In January 2022, only 32.2 per cent of adult Australians said that they would vote for a Coalition member if an election was held then. This is significantly lower than the per cent of the sample who said they would vote for Labor (37.0 per cent), who would appear to have been in an election-winning position. In particular, the Coalition government appears to have lost support amongst females, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, and young Australians.
Despite these political swings, we find a somewhat surprising level of stability over the period in terms of views on key policy issues. Even with a very large increase in the government’s role in the lives of Australians during the pandemic period, we don’t find any changes in the per cent of Australians who think governments should have an extensive role. Furthermore, there were no large changes between January 2020 and January 2022 in the per cent of Australians who thought environmental issues were serious, with a high degree of stability on views related to global warming. Views on key policy issues were, however, important in explaining changes in voting patterns.