Do More! Ipsos poll shows Australians behind in infrastructure

  • Majority of Australians think we are not doing enough to meet infrastructure needs but only 36% would back Government borrowing to meet those needs
  • There is a clear divide between metropolitan and regional Australia, with those in regional areas rating our infrastructure less positively than those in metropolitan regions
  • Of all countries, high speed broadband rated worst in Australia
  • Roads, rail and high speed broadband among public’s top priorities in Australia

The majority of Australians believe that we are not doing enough to meet the country’s infrastructure needs, a new global Infrastructure study by Ipsos* has revealed.

More than half (59%) of Australians agree that we are not doing enough as a country to meet our infrastructure needs and 70% are of the view that investment in infrastructure is vital to future economic growth, with this figure rising to 76% in regional Australia.

The survey also found that 36% would back the Government borrowing money to fund investment in better/more infrastructure, with 22% opposed and 42% unsure (including ‘don’t know’). Australia was close to the global average of 34%.

There is much greater opposition to the idea of foreign investment in new infrastructure than there is support (39% against vs 27% support) if it means that projects can be delivered more quickly. This makes Australia one of the least open countries to foreign investment, with the global average of 45% in support. In fact, of the 26 countries in the survey, Australia ranked 24th on this measure.

Australians still want their voices to be heard, however, with 64% agreeing that delays to infrastructure projects are justified if it means that local communities’ views can be properly heard, which is similar to the global average of 62%.

Just under half, at 49%, agree that Australia has a poor record for getting national infrastructure projects right (10% disagree), but only 29% are dissatisfied with the country’s infrastructure. Levels of overall satisfaction are similar to the global average.

Australians rate our airports most positively (69% rating them as very/fairly good), followed by water supply and sewerage (67%), new housing supply (49%), rail infrastructure (48%), motorways/major road networks (48%), and the local road network (43%). Least positive ratings were reported for high speed broadband (38% vs 53% very/fairly poor), energy generation infrastructure (38%) and flood defences (38%).

In terms of perceptions of current infrastructure, those living in regional areas were less likely to rate most areas of infrastructure positively. Regional Australians were similar or slightly more positive than metropolitan residents regarding airports, new housing supply, energy generation infrastructure, and water supply and sewerage.

Priorities for investment were ranked as motorway/major road network (46%), the local road network (45%), rail infrastructure (43%), and high speed broadband (43%). While there were distinct differences in ratings of infrastructure between those in metropolitan and regional areas, there was less difference in priority areas. The key areas of divergence were in regional residents’ increased likelihood to nominate the local road network (53% vs 41%) and flood defences (29% vs 19%) as priorities.

Commenting on the findings, Ipsos Social Research Institute Director – NSW, David Elliott, said:
“This survey shows instinctive backing for the Government’s infrastructure building and recognition of its importance to economic growth. Interestingly, despite the desire for improved infrastructure there is some reluctance for this to be achieved through Government borrowing or foreign investment. Both of these may be driven by Government and media messaging in recent years.

“On the borrowing front, we are continually hearing from the Federal Government about the need to manage spending and Government debt, so perhaps this is driving the lack of support for borrowing to fund infrastructure.

“The community’s opposition to foreign investment in infrastructure is likely influenced by Government and media discussion around foreign investment in, or ownership in, the energy, farming, mining, ports and infrastructure sectors. This may also be intertwined with the current socio-political environment that is reflected in negative attitudes towards immigration and refugees.

“Regardless, the community is clear on the desire to be heard and for local communities to be involved in decision making. To help Australia build more and better infrastructure, our leaders need to consult with citizens, customers and communities to understand the things that matter and, of course, deliver on the promises and potential,” he said.

Global views

Globally, one third (31%) are satisfied with infrastructure in their country but, regionally, this varies from 28% in Latin American countries to 41% in the Middle East and Africa, reaching a high of 63% in Saudi Arabia, six times the low of 10% in Hungary.

Among the ten different types of infrastructure, flood defences and nuclear energy-generation receive the worst ratings, while airports and motorways are among the best rated. The top global priority for investment is a tie between water supply and sewerage (a particular priority in Brazil, Russia, India and China and the Middle East/Africa), and the local road network, both mentioned by 42%.

In terms of attitudes, while the global average is 56% in agreement that their country “is not doing enough to meet its infrastructure needs”, this varies from 75% in South Africa to just 25% in Japan. Support for borrowing to invest in infrastructure ranges from 69% in India to a low of 13% again in Japan.

On average, populations in G8 countries pick out fewer priorities for investment compared to other regions/groupings of the world but they are as likely as others to consider investing in infrastructure to be vital to economic growth.

Notes to editors:
Full results available from here.

* Ipsos interviewed 1,000 adults aged 16-65 across Australia, online, between 26 August – 9 September 2016. Data is weighted to the known population profile. The global study involved the same survey being conducted via Ipsos Global @dvisor in 26 countries including Australia (samples sizes were either 500 or 1,000 in each country): Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Columbia, France, Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States. Data is weighted to known population profiles. Ipsos MORI Infrastructure works with infrastructure leaders to provide community, customer, and stakeholder insights supporting infrastructure design, delivery, marketing and evaluation.