In May 2024, cost of living clearly holds as the dominant issue Australians want the Federal Government to focus on.

The latest edition of our True Issues survey report is now available in full here (summary below). We have also compiled two additional special releases. One in the immediate aftermath of the May Federal Budget, looking at new budget spends and economic management. A separate report assesses sentiment to industry policy given ongoing debate about the Future Made In Australia plan.

Federal Budget

The Federal Budget has been assessed poorly more often than good but even more Australians just regard it as average. Asked how they assessed the latest budget, 21% of those aware of some detail rated it as either good or very good, a 5-point improvement on the 2022 budget. It still holds a net negative rating of minus 10 points, with a total of 31% rating it poor or very poor, 3 points better than 2022. A substantial 41% of Australians were less committal, regarding the latest budget as just average.

In terms of portfolio-specific spending initiatives within the budget it is healthcare, pharmaceuticals and skills investment for apprentices that are received most warmly, all receiving above 70% support. Aged care, affordable housing, domestic violence investment and support for universities are next best rated.

Asked about the budget’s efforts to balance the pressures of Australia’s population growth against housing, government services and infrastructure needs, 31% of Australians rate it as poor or very poor and 36% as just average. Only 24% regard the budget as good or very good on the specific test of managing population growth against key services and infrastructure investment.

A series of key economic management propositions behind the Budget have also revealed some noteworthy responses, including low agreement that the tax system is working well and high agreement that Federal Government spending is placing pressure on future generations.

Here is the full report looking at public reaction to a range of budget initiatives. Post budget research also covered by political editor Phillip Coorey in [paywall] The Australian Financial Review.

Future Made in Australia

Overall national support for the Federal Government’s Future Made In Australia plan sits just below half the country (49%), but outright rejection of the policy vision is relatively low (14% opposed). A substantial proportion of the population are sitting on the fence in a neutral posture (23%) or currently indicate they don’t know or aren’t sure (14%, significantly higher for women and 35-54 year olds). In a noteworthy finding, men (54%) support Future Made In Australia at a significantly higher rate than women (43%).

An insight the Government may want to pay some close regard to is Australians contemporary strong support for food and agriculture based industry policy as a potential part of the plan. Total support for food processing and more efficient agriculture investment is relatively high (70%). Investment in energy efficient building materials is also a popular potential industry area, with 72% of Australians saying they are supportive.

The Federal Government’s foray into backing quantum computing with taxpayer investment requires further convincing, with only 42% supportive of this area of industry policy. Only 17% of Australians are outright opposed, but 41% are either neutral or can’t say.

Read the Future Made in Australia special report. Results were also featured in [paywall] The Australian by National Affairs Editor Joe Kelly last week.

True Issues Summary

Unprompted, a majority (55%) of adults continue to name cost of living in their top three most important issues or concerns, and 80% place cost of living in their top five from a prompted list.

Renters (86%) and those aged 35-54 years (85%) are even more likely to cite cost of living as a top issue compared with Australians overall. Cost of living has now consistently been a top issue for more than 70% of Australians since August 2022, thus nearly the full duration of the Albanese Government. The gap between cost of living and the next most dominant issue has been at least 20 points since June 2023.

Hospitals, healthcare  and ageing (58%) and housing and interest rates (55%) are the next most important prompted issues. Both of these areas, while well beneath cost of living in depth of concern, are nominated at least twice the rate of much  lower issues that still make the Top 10, such as energy (24%), education (24%), immigration (24%) and provision of public services (21%).

High profile news coverage of violent events in Sydney has likely impacted on the latest top prompted issues results relating to terrorism, radicalisation and violent extremism (up 4 points).

Immigration and border security is now a top five issue for 24% of people. It sits as equal 7th overall of the issues they want the Government to focus on. While the 3 point increase in this survey is not significant, in June of last year only 15% regarded immigration as a top five priority.

The latest results have seen a halt to the trend slide in the public’s rating of the Federal Government’s performance overall, having ticked up 2 points in May to sit at an index score of 47. But negative  concerns about the direction of the national economy are very low and sit at a pessimistic rating of minus 20 points for the third consecutive survey. Asked if the national economy is headed in the right or wrong direction Australians have now consistently responded with a net negative double-digit rating since August 2022.

Australians see the direction of travel of their own personal situation (3 point drop), their local community (5 point drop) and the circumstances of business and industry (3% drop) to all be on the slide compared with earlier  this year.

True Issues is a research tool to assist Australian businesses to understand where their issues truly sit within the contemporary issues landscape. This poll was conducted as an online survey between 17-20 May 2024 among a representative national sample of 1,000 Australians aged 18+ years. This is an excerpt from our latest True Issues report, to read the full report, click the link below.

Here are the links again for our special edition Federal Budget report and Future Made in Australia feature. For further enquiries or to include your issue in the next wave, please get in touch.