Support for masks falling as spending and activity recover

Support for wearing masks and other measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is falling, according to the latest Melbourne Institute Taking the Pulse of the Nation survey.

The survey, conducted in early November, shows 80 per cent of Australians support mask-wearing, down from 89 per cent in early August. Support for other restrictions, including weekly testing, 14-day quarantines, reducing public transport capacity and closing non-essential businesses, has also fallen.

However, support for using mobile phone data for contact tracing has increased from 59 per cent to 62 per cent.

Professor Guay Lim, lead author of the survey report, said the results may indicate fatigue is setting in.

“Although support for preventative measures remains high overall, the decline suggests governments could do more to communicate the benefits of measures that reduce the risk of transmission. The recent cluster in South Australia shows we must remain vigilant if we are to preserve the fragile economic recovery,” Professor Lim said.

Led by the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research at the University of Melbourne, the fornightly Taking the Pulse of the Nation survey tracks changes in the economic and social wellbeing of Australians. The 22nd wave of the survey was conducted from 2-8 November.

The number of people restricting their activities outside of the home has fallen from 45 per cent in early August to 35 per cent in the latest survey, with Western Australians reporting the lowest numbers of people restricting activity (25 per cent).

Spending appears to be recovering, with 32 per cent of Australians saying they are spending more than in January 2020, compared to 21 per cent in September, and the number of people spending less than in January has fallen from 47 per cent to 36 per cent.

Mental health and satisfaction with government continue to deteriorate. The number of people reporting feeling anxious or depressed most of the time has risen steadily since August and, at 23 per cent, is now greater than the number of people reporting mental distress some of the time. The number of people reporting little or no mental stress has, however, remained relatively stable since August.

Twenty three per cent of Australians are dissatisfied with the government response, up from 19 per cent in the previous survey. Dissatisfaction is lowest in Western Australia, and highest in South Australia where 30 per cent of people are dissatisfied with government response.

Interact with the results of the Taking the Pulse of the Nation survey on our tracker page.