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Catalyst Analysis – Australians are cautiously optimistic about the future

The Catalyst social & environmental research program provides an ongoing monitor of consumer sentiment towards a range of issues facing society. Progressive Australian research business Lewers Research are a program partner and in this post by guest analyst, CEO Lisa Lewers analyses the responses to an open ended question fielded in the July wave, which asked:

‘When you think about the future of society and the environment 5-10 years from now, what thoughts and feelings come to mind?’ 

When asked how they feel about the future of society and the environment, Australians can be best described as cautiously optimistic.

While there is a lot of positivity (40%) as seen in emotions such as joy and trust, there is also a high degree (51%) of negativity, expressed in emotions such as anger and fear. In short, Australians feel optimistic and hopeful that the future is bright but have some nagging anxiety and worry that not enough is being done to deliver a safe and certain future for all.

Feelings of anger are mostly fueled by concerns for the environment and climate change and the impact that a lack of action may have on the future of society. Australians also show some fear related to government decision making, politics and global issues with a sense these are destabilising factors that make the future vulnerable and over which they have limited control.

While the advent of Covid-19 has had a clear impact on how Australians feel and is most strongly associated with feelings of sadness, it has also been the catalyst for change and hope for some …”we’ll be forever changed with covid and hopefully taking better care of ourselves and the environment”.

However, it is the issues, those that have a more direct and immediate impact on individuals that evoke real feelings of sadness. Not surprisingly, Covid-19 has played a role here. However, concern for future generations and issues such as housing affordability, unemployment and mental health, also feature strongly.

Technology is a double-edged sword. Some Australians fear its impact on society “…my fear for society in general will be the shortage of jobs and AI taking over positions that are now available”, others expressed joy for the future and trust in the notion that technology could facilitate a more developed, civilised and diverse future.

Against the backdrop of fear, anger and doubt, many Australians are still hopeful for a safe, just and inclusive. It is the recognition of the need for immediate and lasting remedial actions in areas such as climate change, environmental protection and social change that act as a caveat to the optimism. The conundrum is present evidence is the following statement – “I am worried about the future. We do not have enough housing but housing ruins the environment. I feel like we are not moving quick enough to protect both and create something sustainable”.

by Lisa Lewers, CEO Lewers Research

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