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Australia Australia Talks National Survey reveals what Australians are most worried about

01:35  09 october  2019
01:35  09 october  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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The Australia Talks National Survey has unlocked a fascinating insight into the Australian people: we have more faith in our own ability to deal with problems than we do in our country's — or indeed the world's.

Of more than 50,000 Australians who participated in the mammoth study, most — 78 per cent — were optimistic about their own futures.

But they were much less hopeful for the future of the nation at large (51 per cent optimistic), and frankly despairing about where the world's headed, with only 30 per cent hopeful for the future of the globe.

In a hyperactive and increasingly tribalised world, it seems the fear of what lies outside our own sphere of control is far worse than the adversity we face personally.

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So what is affecting us personally?

When confronted with a menu of 27 worry factors, ranging all the way from money to love to human survival, only four qualified as a matter of immediate personal concern to the majority of respondents.

Climate change was the leading worry; 72 per cent of respondents said it would affect their lives.

Saving for retirement was a problem for 62 per cent, health for 56 per cent, and 50 per cent of respondents (surprisingly low, considering) were darkly convinced ageing was definitely a thing that was going to happen to them.

The results are revealing on many levels.

Of the great partisan placard-fodder issues of our time, for instance, only climate change registers powerfully in the Australian home as a personal threat.

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Only 37 per cent view terrorism as a concern for them personally.

And immigration haunts the dreams of only 27 per cent.

Many more — 45 per cent — live in fear of not being able to afford a home.

The lowest-ranking worry of all the options listed is access to education; only 18 per cent of Australians were very or even slightly pessimistic about their options in this respect.

What do we view as a problem for Australia?

However, when presented with a list of issues and asked whether they were "a problem for Australia generally", respondents became instantly more fretful.

Of 26 issues raised, ranging from racism to the loss of traditional values to crime, every single one was thought to be a threat to Australia by a majority of respondents.

For example, crime was an issue only 37 per cent of respondents said they considered a problem for them personally.

But 70 per cent felt it was a problem for the nation.

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While immigration wasn't felt to have an impact personally on the lives of many Australians — only 27 per cent were either concerned or very concerned — 54 per cent felt it was a problem for the country.

(That said, immigration still bumped along at the bottom of the list of problems faced by the nation; the greatest shared worries for the nation were — by a long straw — "cost of living", "household debt" and "drug and alcohol abuse", each of which were fretted about to varying degrees by a commanding 9 in 10 respondents.)

Another state can feel like a different country Is it possible our fear of certain problems escalates with distance? That our worst fears are about circumstances at a particular remove from us, or over which we have little control?

Respondents were asked, for example, whether they thought "treatment of indigenous people" was a problem for Australia.

In the ACT, which has the second lowest proportion of Indigenous Australians in its population, concern about this issue was highest; 85 per cent were either somewhat or very concerned.

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But in the Northern Territory, where around a quarter of the population is Indigenous, concern about the treatment of Indigenous people was the lowest in the nation; only 53 per cent thought it was a problem.

A tour of the states and territories yields many such disagreements about what we should and should not be worried about as a nation; sometimes, another state within Australia truly can feel like another country.

In Queensland, for instance, 70 per cent of respondents think the loss of traditional values is a problem for the nation; it's a view not shared in the ACT where only 41 per cent lose sleep over such matters.

In NSW, water is the biggest issue of national concern; in Victoria it's cost of living, while in Tasmania, it's drugs and alcohol abuse.

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The only significant division, in fact — on the question of pride in Australia — is along political lines.

As a rule of thumb, the further to the right you are on the political spectrum, the more likely you are to agree enthusiastically that Australia is "the best country in the world in which to live".

Respondents who voted Green in the last election were the only group who did not — on balance — agree with the sentiment; just 46 per cent, compared to 82 per cent of LNP voters.

Mo money, fewer problems? Are there any particular indicators for remaining comparatively chipper about life?

Age, for one — 64 per cent of Australians aged 75 and older are optimistic about Australia's future, but among those aged 18-24, attitudes are much more grim. Only 40 per cent of young people share their elders' confidence.

Money, for another. Across nearly all the personal worry factors suggested to respondents, the results are a stinging repudiation of the late Notorious B.I.G's 1997 association of "Mo' Money" with "Mo' Problems".

Australians earning $3,000 a week and above worried less than the poorest Australians about nearly everything.

Loneliness, crime, job security, getting older; all cost the wealthy less sleep than those who earned $599 a week or less, and the only factor that was more of a problem at the top end of town was work/life balance.

Voting for the Coalition, it seems, is another way of staying positive about life.

Not only were LNP voters the most likely to endorse Australia as the most liveable country in the world, but they were also the most optimistic grouping in the political spectrum about Australia's future.

In fact, the most optimistic electorate in Australia for the nation's future is Cook — the south-Sydney coastal seat named for Captain James Cook, which for the past five elections has returned the man who presently serves as Prime Minister — Scott Morrison.

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