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Australian Optimism: Lowy Institute Poll 2020

by Victor Perton

In his preface to the Lowy Institute Poll 2020 report, Dr Michael Fullilove writes, "The 2020 Lowy Institute Poll records unprecedented shifts in public opinion. Only half the country reports feeling safe — a record low for Australians. Our concern about a global economic downturn has skyrocketed. Optimism about our economic prospects has sunk to an historic low."

This makes sense in the context of the pandemic and it continues a 21st century trend to Australian pessimism.

The report states, "Australians’ optimism about the economy has fallen to record lows, although a slight majority (52%) remain optimistic. This is the lowest level of optimism recorded in the history of the Lowy Institute Poll. It represents a 13-point fall from 2019, and is 34 points lower than the high point in 2009 and 2010 (86%)."

The "very optimistic" have dropped from 19% in 2005 and 2010 to 3% today.

The Lowy Institute fundings are consistent with the Centre for Optimism's research and so too the Australian Leadership Project.

Australia needs to raise the level of optimism in the country.  Australia needs to make greater use of those who are very optimistic.

McKinsey's CEO Dominic Barton told me, "Optimism is at the very core of leadership. The best leaders I have encountered in my career are those that remain optimistic –- and ambitious -– for their organisations even in the face of great adversity."

Optimism is one of the leadership traits that global recruitment firm Korn Ferry looks for in a leadership candidate. Korn Ferry defines optimism from its perspective: "Optimism is the degree to which people tend to disregard disappointment, are satisfied with who they are, and expect the future to be bright. Successful leadership requires a steady healthy optimism and good expectations for the future."

What are the levels of optimism in Australia? It's hard to say as so much of the survey language differs and, in a country where the word is not used very often, people don't necessarily understand the question.

Gates Foundation Research Applicable to Australian Optimism

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about your future?

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation commissioned an Ipsos online opinion poll in mid 2018 for the Foundation's Goalkeepers Campaign.  The first question was Are you optimistic or pessimistic about your future?

Answering "very optimistic" to the question, the average of the 15 countries was 36% amongst adults - Australia was 22%.

The net Australian result was 67% of adult Australians reporting themselves as optimistic for themselves compared to the average for the 15 countries at 77%.  The Australian results seem to be on par with Germany 66% and the UK 68% but lower than the USA 75% and much higher than France 50%.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of your country?

The Gates Foundation asked are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of your country?

Answering "very optimistic" to the question, the average of the 15 countries was 24% amongst adults - Australia was 13%.

57% of adult Australians were "optimistic" compared to the average 63%.  The highest result was for China 88% and the lowest was for Francee 33%.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the world?

Answering "very optimistic" to the question, "are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the world?", the average over the 15 countries was 22% amongst adults.

50% of adult Australians were optimistic to some extent compared to the average 67%.  The highest China (85%), India (84%)and Nigeria (83%) and lowest France at 24%.  Young Australians were more optimistic than adults 58% v 50%.

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