Australians think increasing spending on finding a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is the best way to help our economy during the current crisis, a new study has found.

The study, led by The Australian National University (ANU), examined more than 3,200 Australians’ views about the Government’s COVID-19 policies and which ones they thought would best solve the nation’s economic woes.

Of the four policies examined, funding for a vaccine or treatment received the most support. This was followed by opening up pubs, clubs and cafes. Extending the JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments beyond the current six-month period was the third most supported measure.

Study co-author, Professor Matthew Gray from the ANU Centre for Social Research Methods, said “a miracle cure” for COVID-19 was high in Australians’ thinking.

“More than three in four Australians, 75.6 per cent, think increasing spending on the search for a COVID-19 vaccine and treatment will make the biggest difference in the face of the current economic crisis,” Professor Gray said.

“This is not surprising because if a vaccine or effective treatment can be found then it would enable the world to open up again. The problem is that there is no guarantee of a cure being found and if one is found how quickly this will happen.”

Almost four in 10 Australians, 39.4 per cent, said finding a cure would make a ‘great deal’ of difference, while 36.1 per cent think it will make ‘some’ difference when it comes to fixing the economy.

This was followed closely by easing restrictions on pubs, clubs and cafes. Some 71.7 per cent of Australians said this policy would help. Of those, 26.2 per cent said it would help a great deal and 45.5 per cent said it would provide some help.

“In contrast, 57.6 per cent of Australians thought extending JobKeeper or JobSeeker would help the economy, with 21.9 per cent saying it would help a great deal and 35.7 per cent saying it would provide some support,” Professor Gray said.

The study also showed nearly half of Australians think opening up borders would help fix the economy, with 17.3 per cent of Australians thinking it would help a great deal, and 29.9 per cent thinking it will provide some help. Almost one in four, 24 per cent, thought these measures would also help the economy a little.

Another key finding was that there was no significant difference across the political divide for the level of support for finding a vaccine or treatment, or easing restrictions on pubs, clubs and cafes.

“But this changed when the question of whether JobKeeper or JobSeeker should be extended by six months,” Professor Matthew Gray said.

“The group least likely to think these measures would help the economy were Coalition voters, with 44.2 per cent of these voters backing it.

“Greens voters were the most supportive, with 70.2 per cent saying it would help, followed closely by Labor voters – with 61 per cent of these voters backing the measures.”

The study also found little change for Australians’ support for key economic policies both before and after the pandemic.

“Before the pandemic, 85 per cent of Australians agreed that increasing spending on healthcare, education and housing would help fix the economy,” Professor Gray said. “In May this figure was 82.1 per cent.

“And in May 76.7 per cent of Australians said spending on infrastructure like roads and building was helpful. This is a slight drop from 79 per cent in January 2020.

“The measure that actually gained support was cutting taxes – with 59.1 per cent saying this would help the economy in May compared to 57.5 per cent in January.” 

Download the study’s full findings online.

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