Issues Monitor: Top Issues Facing the Nation – March 2013

As detailed in our Issues Monitor infographic, March 2013 saw ‘Healthcare’ well and truly consolidate its position as the most important issue facing the nation, with nearly half of the public (45%) selecting it as one of the top three issues facing Australia.  The next most important issue – ‘Cost of Living’ – was selected by one out of every three Australians (33%).  Importantly, the gap between these two issues has widened substantially since late last year, with ‘Healthcare’ gaining 8% since November 2012.  Conversely, ‘Cost of Living’ has dropped 7%.

National concern about ‘Unemployment’ has doubled over the past two years, with 19% rating it as one of the top three issues facing Australia compared to only 10% when surveying began in late 2010.  While concern about ‘Unemployment’ peaked at 21% in July 2012, it has continued to be nominated by approximately one-fifth of Australians since and currently sits just outside the top five as the seventh most important issue facing the nation.

Concerns around ‘Unemployment’ are more acute for 18-29 year-old Australians (5th most important issue) relative to those aged 30-49 (8th) and greater than 50 years (6th).  Anxieties vary substantially across the Australian states with Queenslanders (4th), Victorians (4th), South Australians (5th) and Tasmanians (6th) more concerned than those who reside in the ACT (16th), Western Australians (11th), and Northern Territorians (10th).  Unemployment is considered the 8th most important issue facing that nation in our populous state, New South Wales.

The opposite is true of the ‘Environment’.  Concern was highest when surveying began in late 2010, with one out of every five (20%) nominating it as a top issue, compared to only 13% in the most recent month.  This represents a drop from equal fifth place to ninth.  In the first half of 2012, concerns around the ‘Environment’ appeared to decrease as concerns around financial issues ‘Cost of Living’ and ‘The Economy’ increased; suggesting that this issue may only be a concern when confidence in the economy is high.  However, recent months have seen these two financial issues return to earlier levels, while concern around the ‘Environment’ has continued to be relatively low.  This indicates that a decline in concern about ‘the Environment’ may be a long-term trend.

In March 2013, ‘The Environment’ rated as the 9th most important issue.   Younger Australians – those aged between 18 and 29 – led the shift away from ‘The Environment’.  It was their fourth most important issue facing the nation in November 2010 and has subsequently dropped seven places to number 11.  The same is true of wealthier Australians.  In November 2010 households with annual incomes greater than $100K rated it their fourth most important issue.  It is now their 10th most important.

Daniel Evans

Research Director

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