More Australian voters say government should prioritise population’s wellbeing over law and order, poll suggests

Australian voters are more inclined now than a year ago to believe the primary purpose of government is boosting the wellbeing of the population, and less inclined to worry about law and order, according to new research.

Polling undertaken for the Centre for Policy Development records a five-point year-on-year rise in support for the idea that the primary purpose of government is to improve overall wellbeing and a seven-point drop in the number of respondents saying government should prioritise public safety and the rule of law.

When asked earlier in February what they thought was the primary purpose of government, 32% of respondents said improving wellbeing (up from 27% in 2021) and 11% (down from 18%) said maintaining safety and the rule of law.

More survey participants in 2022 also nominated the delivery and funding of social services as a primary purpose of government (31% said this was important, up from 28% last year).

The Centre for Policy Development has been researching voter attitudes to the role of government since 2017. The centre’s chief executive, Travers McLeod, said it had been clear for a long time that a majority of Australians supported the maintenance of public sector capability to deliver critical services.

But he said the coronavirus pandemic prompted a noticeable community shift. “Since Covid has revealed the critical weaknesses in our service systems people have become even more forthright in their views, not just about the purpose of government, but about the need for government to maintain and deliver the social infrastructure at the heart of our nation,” McLeod said.

The research comes ahead of a May federal election. Scott Morrison has declared it is time for governments to step back after a period of interventionism during the pandemic while the Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, is campaigning on the idea that government is transformative for people.

The poll of 1,069 respondents undertaken by Essential suggests 58% of respondents…

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