Two-thirds of Australians thought COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were “about right”

Most Australians thought COVID-19 lockdown restrictions struck the right balance between prioritising health and allowing freedom of movement, according to the results of a national survey.

The survey, described in a paper published in the Australian Journal of Social Issues, found that roughly 65% of Australians thought the lockdown rules were “about right”.

In contrast, 15% of respondents thought the restrictions were “probably” or “definitely” not restrictive enough (11% probably, 4% definitely), while 19% thought them “probably” or “definitely” too restrictive (11% and 8% respectively). 

The study, undertaken by Bruce Tranter, a professor of sociology at the University of Tasmania, examined the results of the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes, which sends a paper questionnaire on a different subject to randomly selected Australians each year. The 2020/21 survey had 1162 respondents.

The study also reports on data from a second survey, the online Tasmania Project Survey, which had 1200 responses and focussed exclusively on Tasmania.

While most respondents were satisfied with lockdown restrictions, responses varied depending on state, political leaning and gender. Women were more likely than men to be concerned about the health implications of COVID-19, and those who identified as Coalition voters were more likely than Labor voters to view the lockdowns as restrictive.

“Victorians are more likely than people living in all other states to view the lockdown rules as too restrictive, perhaps unsurprisingly given Victorians endured by far the longest lockdowns to date,” writes Tranter in the paper.

The Tasmanian survey examined attitudes to COVID-19 restrictions in more detail. Its data suggested that those who prioritised the economy over public health were less likely to wear masks, use check-in software, or get tests or vaccinations.

Read more on lockdown restrictions: The psychology of COVID compliance

“Political party identity effects are also apparent in the Tasmanian sample,” writes Tranter. “Only 1% of Liberal identifiers in the Tasmanian survey are unvaccinated, compared with 11% of Labor, 12% of Greens and 20% of non-identifiers.

“The very high uptake among the Liberal party identifiers may reflect the influence of the incumbent Liberal state government upon party followers.”

A second study, also published in the Australian Journal of Social Issues, found that the “relatively short” 2020 lockdown in Tasmania still had an effect on school attendance. Specifically, socioeconomically disadvantaged students’ attendance dropped after the roughly two-month remote-learning period (the restrictions were lifted at different points for different ages).

“While limited in scope and jurisdictional coverage, the present study constitutes an important step toward a comprehensive description of the potential impact of COVID-19 on educational outcomes of students from different socioeconomic backgrounds,” write the authors in their paper.

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