While trust is intangible, it is central to how Australians live and interact with one another in society1. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for Australians to revaluate their priorities, extending to the institutions they trust. Australian’s trust has predominantly decreased in both the State and Federal governments. One in three Australians (36%) strongly/somewhat agree their trust in the Federal Government has decreased while 29% agree their trust in State Government has decreased in the past two years. Australians are similarly less trusting in social media (30%) and mainstream media (27%) than they were two years ago.
Trust in these institutions has largely decreased because Australians do not believe what they say (62%). Other Australians are equally concerned that institutions are only focussed on their own interests (58%) and are not confident in the decisions they may make (58%).
Response to COVID-19 builds trust
For some Australians on the other hand, the way that certain institutions have handled the COVID-19 pandemic has in fact, built trust. When asked why their trust has increased, Australians commented that the way that State and Federal governments have handled the pandemic is key. For similar reasons, Australians have increased trust in religious institutions and charities, impressed with how these organisations have stepped up to help others and their community in difficult circumstances.
Seeking trustworthy information
Australians, now more than ever, are wanting to increase their information literacy and political awareness and are turning to a range of sources to do so. Two in three Australians (65%) turn to experts in the field for trustworthy and reliable information while one in two turn to scientists (52%).
Fewer Australians are looking to local community (14%), world leaders (9%) or activists (9%) and just 7% of Australians turn to social media influencers for trustworthy information.
Gen Z are the most likely to turn to activists (20% cf. 9% Gen Y, 8% Gen X, 4% Baby Boomers, 3% Builders) and world leaders (15% cf. 10% Gen Y, 8% Gen X, 6% Baby Boomers, 4% Builders) for trustworthy information.
Australians are aligned to the laws of the country.
While many beliefs and perspectives make up Australia today, overall, Australians agree they support the rules and laws of the nation. In fact, four in five Australians (82%) strongly/somewhat agree with the statement Overall, I support the rules and laws of this nation. Just 6% disagree.
At more than triple than their younger counterparts, it is the older generations who are more likely to agree they support the laws and rules of the nation (80% Builders, 59% Baby Boomers, 44% Gen X cf. 38% Gen Y, 23% Gen Z).
Australians are more likely to comply than support the rules of the nation
Interestingly, while a large proportion of Australians agree they support the rules of the nation, more Australians (88%) would strongly/somewhat agree with the statement I always try to comply with the laws and rules of the country, and just 3% disagree. This slight disparity between Australian’s support of and willingness to comply with the rules and laws of the nation is perhaps because of a growing proportion of Australians prioritising information literacy and political awareness, highlighting how people are looking into the actions taken by Australian leaders.
Similarly, it is older Australians who are more likely to comply with the laws and rules of the country (81% Builders, 75% Baby Boomers, 61% Gen X cf. 51% Gen Y, 52% Gen Z).
Australians are proactive in keeping the community safe
The Aussie spirit of comradery and mateship are evident in the way Australians are willing to proactively obey and follow COVID-19 safety measures, even if they are not enforced. Four in five Australians (79%) say they would follow social distancing, 75% would wear a mask and 70% say they have chosen to follow vaccine mandates.
Interestingly, even though 67% of Australians say they have/would follow the stay-at-home orders, just 46% of Australians who could work from home, would choose to work from home if it was not enforced. This is perhaps evidence of Australians craving a slower pace of life experienced in stay-at-home mandates, and the opportunity that COVID-19 related lockdowns provided for such a change.
1 Renewed search for meaning, McCrindle blog, 2021