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Support for COVID-19 policy in Australia

Support for COVID-19 policy response and willingness to get vaccinated high, according to new survey in Australia.

Support among Australians for the policy response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and willingness to get vaccinated is high, according to new University of Melbourne research.

In January 2021, the Policy Lab — based in the Faculty of Arts — surveyed over 1,000 Australians to gauge their attitudes to various COVID-19 policies, including vaccination.

The Public attitudes to COVID-19 policies and vaccination survey found strong public approval of COVID-19 policies and high levels of trust in information coming from the federal government, the Chief Medical Officer and medical scientists.  The survey also found many Australians (76 per cent) reporting that they are likely to get vaccinated.

Co-director of the Policy Lab, Associate Professor Aaron Martin said: “In Australia we are seeing high levels of support for COVID-19 policies at both the state and federal level. We also find that when it comes to COVID-19 information citizens trust information coming from government almost as much as they trust information coming from scientists. This is not always the case in other comparable democracies.”

Associate Professor Aaron Martin said that it was important to look at levels of trust in government because this has important consequences on social compliance, adherence to future policy decisions and overall effectiveness in responding to the pandemic.

“We had 84 per cent of respondents state that they trusted information coming from the Federal Government ‘a lot’ or ‘a little’. This figure was comparable to the trust respondents expressed in information coming from the Chief Medical Officer (87 per cent), medical scientists (88 per cent) and their relevant state/territory (83 per cent) government,” said Associate Professor Martin. “These findings suggest that trends toward lower levels of trust in government do not translate into distrust of COVID information.”

Associate Professor Martin attributes this to the general success of COVID-19 policies. Large majorities responded that the rules ‘designed to reduce the spread of COVID’ had been applied ‘fairly’ (70 per cent), ‘effectively’ (66 per cent) and ‘successfully’ (71 per cent). Associate Professor Martin believes that the Australian response, which has consistently deferred to the knowledge of experts, has helped foster a greater sense of trust among the Australian public.

The survey also found many Australians (76 per cent) reporting that they are likely to get vaccinated — as the survey was fielded in January the caveat ‘once a safe and effective vaccine is available’ was added.

Seventy-three per cent of people supported compulsory vaccination of all Australians, with 51 per cent agreeing that unemployment benefits and other government payments should be contingent on vaccination.

The survey also asked respondents how they would feel about censoring false information that could lead to the further spread of COVID-19, such as that disseminated by anti-vaxxers. More than half of respondents (58 per cent) said that they would feel comfortable with some level of censorship.

These findings suggest that large sections of the Australian public support the policy interventions put in place to address COVID-19 at both the federal and state level. This suggests that state and territory governments have (and sustain) public support when pursuing policies to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The survey also suggests that uptake of vaccination will be high.

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