Purpose of Government Pulse

Understanding Australian attitudes on the purpose of government and democracy

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.

Key Findings of the 2024 Purpose of Government Pulse

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 purpose of democracy is fixed, the purpose of government is dynamic

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.

Public wellbeing should guide government decision-making

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.

People want to see active, effective government up close

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

Explore the data and examine changes over time, and between different demographics, with the Purpose of Government Pulse Data Explorer. 

Read the full report

Expert insights on the research, and detailed findings on each question unpacked. Read the full report online or download as a pdf.

Expert commentary

Building trust and understanding with data

It is essential for the government to recognise and accommodate varying expectations through tailored services and policies.

The Pulse in context

The long-term trend of declining trust in government, which mirrors a broader political polarisation and decay of trust in institutions more generally, is troubling for policymakers and leaders across the political spectrum.

The untapped potential of intergenerational collaboration

Young people are highly engaged with the elements of institutions that they trust, leaning towards opportunities for community-led local and state-based engagements.

Democratic and federal implications

Stitching together and sustaining political support across the divides revealed by the Pulse is a test of Australia's institutions

Wellbeing is not a matter of left politics or right politics, big government or small. According to most people, it’s the only way forward. 

People expect politicians and public officials to design economic systems that promote wellbeing, enable good lives and support opportunity

Purpose of Government Pulse experts

Purpose of Government Pulse in the media

Politicians are on notice that the old "jobs and growth" catchcry won't be enough to attract voters, especially younger ones, in Australia's evolving democracy.
How satisfied are Australians with democracy, the direction the country is taking, and the performance of local, State and Federal governments?
Centre for Policy Development (CPD) has found that the rising cost of living is changing Australians’ priorities of what they want from government.

Purpose of Government Pulse recent work

The Purpose of Government Pulse explores attitude reasearch on key questions about the purpose of government, the purpose of democracy, public capability, and the effectiveness of government in fulfilling this
    Explore the data and examine changes over time, and between different demographics, with the Purpose of Government Pulse Data Explorer.

    Purpose of Government Pulse related initiatives

    Shaping government services to meet people’s needs through local, community-focused solutions
    Advancing the wellbeing of people, communities and the environment by enhancing government decision-making
    Tackling long-term government policy challenges and instilling confidence in public institutions

    Contact the Purpose of Government Pulse team

    At the Centre for Policy Development, our team is at the forefront of policy research and innovation in Australia.

    Whether you have an inquiry, feedback, or a collaboration idea, we’re eager to hear from you.

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