The Australian National University poll of 3000 people found confidence in the PM had also fallen substantially and there was “quite strong disapproval” of the Government’s handling of the bushfires.
“In particular, we found there was disapproval with Prime Minister Scott Morrison,” lead researcher Professor Nicolas Biddle said.
Prof Biddle said confidence with Mr Morrison’s leadership had fallen to 3.92 out of 10 from 5.25 when the same question was asked in June 2019.
“This is a net negative review of the Prime Minister and substantial decline in his popularity,” he said.
Prof Biddle said when it came to confidence in the Government, the ANU poll had also recorded “one of the largest declines in confidence I have seen in such a short period of time”.
There was a 10.9 percentage point drop in those who felt confident or very confident in the Government, with only 27 per cent surveyed agreeing.
The proportion of people who said they would vote for the Coalition if an election was held now declined from more than 40 per cent in October 2019 to 35 per cent in January 2020.
There was also a substantial drop in support for new coal mines, with the greatest decline in support found among those who voted for the Coalition at last year’s federal election – from 72 per cent support in June 2019, to 57 per cent in January 2020.
It comes after a Newspoll in January found that Mr Morrison’s approval rating had plunged and Labor was ahead of the Coalition for the first time since the federal election.
Asked about the survey results and whether his handling of the bushfire crisis was behind the poor results, Mr Morrison said the Government had been delivering.
“Our government responded with the single largest compulsory call out of Defence Force reserves to put boots on the ground in response to the bushfire crisis,” he said.
“Within several days of a state of disaster being declared here in Victoria, we’d announced the National Bushfire Recovery Agency. We’d put $2 billion down. Money was flowing to councils within days.
“Over $150 million has already gone out in disaster recovery payments all across the country. “Our government can tell you where our money’s going, and we can do that on a daily basis.”
Mr Morrison said one of the first announcements made was $76 million for mental health support because the Government understood the deep traumatic scarring that had occurred.
“The recovery is where the Commonwealth Government has had an important responsibility with the states and territories. We’ve been working closely with them,” he said.
Mr Morrison said the Government was getting cheques to people who needed disaster recovery support and fences back up through BlazeAid.
“We even put the roof back on the Mogo Zoo,” he said. “These are the things that the Australian Government has been doing to respond to this. And it’s action that matters and it’s action we’ve been delivering.”
RISE IN CONCERNS ABOUT ENVIRONMENT
Since Australia’s devastating bushfire season, the environment has rocketed up to either number one or two on the list of worries for about half of Australian voters.
“Around half of respondents said the environment was the most important or second most important issue – compared to almost 42 per cent in October 2019,” Prof Biddle said.
“There was a large increase in the amount of people who said global warming or the greenhouse effect would have an effect on them – 72 per cent in January 2020 compared to 56 per cent in 2008.”
Bushfires scorched more than 10 million hectares in Australia’s east and south, killing at least 33 people and an estimated one billion animals while destroying more than 2500 homes.
The crisis cloaked major cities including Sydney in smoke for weeks on end and cut off towns, while tired firefighters fought the blazes day-in-day-out over what has been described as Australia’s “black summer”.
Rain finally helped to bring all the fires in NSW under control in mid-February after months of destruction.
Prof Biddle said the majority of non-capital city residents shared the same view as the majority of respondents living in capital cities in relation to the three main environmental questions asked.
“More than half of those who live in non-capital cities think that global warming or the greenhouse effect is very serious, almost two-thirds think global warming will be a threat to them and only two-fifths think that there should be new coal mines,” he said.
Exposure to the bushfires was associated with an increase in whether a person thought the environment was a major issue, Prof Biddle said.
“Many Australians changed their views though, regardless of exposure, with females and young Australians the most likely to be more concerned about the environment than previously,” he said.
“We already see a shift in views regarding coal mines and the environment, but the big question will be whether these shifts are temporary or permanent.”
NEARLY EVERY AUSSIE TOUCHED BY FIRES
The ANU poll found that more than three-quarters of all Australian adults – more than 15 million people – had been impacted by the bushfires. This includes three million, or more than 14 per cent, who were directly exposed to the blazes.
Prof Biddle said he was surprised at how far-reaching the impacts had been.
“Nearly every Australian has been touched by these fires and many of us will be living with the effects for years and years to come,” he said.
Impacts included having a friend or family member who experienced property damage or whose property was threatened, having travel or holiday plans affected, being exposed to smoke or feeling anxious or worried.
Prof Biddle said life satisfaction also declined after the blazes.
About 60 per cent were either satisfied or very satisfied with the way the country was going in January 2020, a drop from 65 per cent in October.
“On a range of 0 to 10, life satisfaction in January 2020 was 6.90. This is a decline since the October 2019 score of 7.05,” Prof Biddle said.
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