The Purpose of Government Pulse tracks Australian attitudes to key questions about government, democracy and public capability.
The inaugural 2024 Purpose of Government Pulse is based on research conducted by the Centre for Policy Development in eight tranches of polling between 2015 and December 2023.
Polling was provided by Essential, and assistance with data visualisation this project was provided by the Relational Insights Data Laboratory at Griffith University, and by 3dmp.
Since 2015 the Centre for Policy Development has been measuring public attitudes to key questions around the purpose of government and democracy, and the performance of Australian governments in fulfilling these purposes. While snapshots have been released occasionally over this period, this report and its associated digital data explorer represent the first time they have been collected and analysed as a time series.
The results show a country with an unwavering belief in fair and equal treatment for everyone. This attitude has remained solid despite enormous societal changes throughout the period surveyed. Australian attitudes to the purpose of government have proved far more responsive to circumstances. Surveys taken in 2023 show a marked increase in the number of people nominating “ensure a decent standard of living” as the primary purpose of government, which has seen this response overtake previous leading responses associated with maintaining wellbeing and delivering critical services.
There is a rising expectation from voters that public decisions should be taken with citizen wellbeing as the guiding principle – above other concerns. This question has always had strong public support, but agreement has increased from 70% in 2021 to 80% in 2023.It is important to note that wellbeing is multi-dimensional, and that responses to the “purpose of government” question are not designed to be mutually exclusive. A decent standard of living forms the material basis of wellbeing, and the wellbeing of most Australians is contingent on well-designed government service systems.
Eight times since 2015 voters have been asked to rate the importance of government capability for direct public service delivery – as distinct from outsourcing to charities or the private sector. Aggregate support for this proposition has never been below 77% (2018), and reached a high of 90% in 2022.
Explore the data and examine changes over time, and between different demographics, with the Purpose of Government Pulse Data Explorer.
Expert insights on the research, and detailed findings on each question unpacked. Read the full report online or download as a pdf.
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