What do Australians think? Part 3 – Trust, politics, work and religion

If there is one thing the AuSSA survey shows is that the Liberal Party is out of step with women along with things such as religion.

Most respondents to the survey say they think equal opportunities for women have not gone far enough or not gone nearly far enough. But the Liberal Party might be heartened by the finding by the minority who believe it has gone much too far and the few who think is has just gone too far.

Given the steady infiltration of the Liberal Party by religious fundamentalists the AuSSA results on religion should give the party some misgivings. No religion is well ahead of any other religion and the overall figure suggest the Rationalist Society of Australia campaign to clarify Census questions on religion is needed to demonstrate that Australians are majority irreligious.

Asked whether – apart from special occasions such as weddings, funerals etc – how often do you attend religious services – the vast majority say never, and the next largest group attend less frequently than once a year.

Very few of the survey sample regard themselves as close to any particular political party and the biggest majority are those with no party affiliation. Among those who do feel close to parties the total for ALP and Greens is pretty close to that for the Liberal Party and the National Party.

Nevertheless – demonstrating the virtues of compulsory voting – almost all respondents said they did vote in the May 2022 election and their prospective voting preferences seem to be very similar to that in the 2022 Election – suggesting we ought to be a bit sceptical of the over-analysis of current polling data.

The most popular source of daily news and information is the ABC News whether TV, radio or website – suggesting that the Liberal Party is out of step on this issue as much as on many others. Commercial TV and social media are the next main sources with newspapers in a distant third place. Dead last is commercial radio including talkback radio.

Respondents are either not very, or not all, worried about getting enough regular work in their current job to make ends meet. What all the debate about cost-of-living crises have done to this since the survey was undertaken is another question.

The biggest group of respondents said they were in permanent employment followed by casual employment, contract jobs of at least six months and short-term contracts under six months.

There are very, very few respondents who have never had paid work with the overwhelming majority either currently in paid work of have had such paid work in the past.

Not many respondents are very worried about losing their jobs, slightly more worried but the vast majority are not very or not at all worried.

A small minority are currently members of a trade union or similar organisation with the majority never have been a member or had been previously but not currently. The survey didn’t throw any light on the fact that a unionised worker is now more likely to be female than male.

Asked what the highest year of schooling completed was the vast majority nominated year 12 or equivalent. There seems to have been no question on university education levels, but a sliver of the sample said they did not go to school. Some of these could be home-schooling religious types.

As for residential location Peter Dutton might get some consolation about his belief that the outer suburbs are the path to electoral victory as most people live in suburbs or the outskirts of a big city. But as the recent Dunkley by-election demonstrated that does not automatically lead to them voting Liberal.

Regional towns and big cities are the next most likely place to live. What impact this might have on voting intentions is another question. Garbrielle Chan’s book Rusted Off describes how regional areas are changing, becoming more diverse and less like the stereotypical areas journalists and others assumed them to be.

Labour and Independent successes in regional areas – especially in Victoria – are a further illustration. It also hints at the fact that decentralisation is now becoming a reality. The late, great journalist Tim Colebatch, once said decades ago that it had never become an issue because the word couldn’t fit into a headline.

Now Government policies, lifestyle choices and self-reinforcing demographic change have combined to be far more important than the media in determining where people live.

Although the property pages do still have a lot of impact even if they are now more likely to be sought through an online service rather than a newspaper.

The 2023AuSSA survey has been on National Identity and Citizenship. Data collection for the AuSSA 2023 began in May 2023 and is due to be completed in May 2024.

Previously the AuSSA ran National Identity and Citizenship as separate modules, but these have been combined to allow for a new module, Digital Societies expected to run in 2024.

Both seem certain to throw more light and reality on subjects on which far too many of us pontificate.