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People in Vietnam and Cambodia have more faith in democracy than Australians, study shows

Key Points
  • Australian satisfaction with democracy declines, lagging behind Vietnam, Cambodia and Taiwan.
  • Study reveals declining confidence in Australian government since COVID-19.
  • Education levels strongly influence Australians’ political system satisfaction.
Satisfaction with democracy in Australia is falling behind that of its Indo-Pacific neighbours, new research has found.
The alarming findings released by the showed 77 per cent of Australians were satisfied or very satisfied with democracy, compared to 81 per cent in 2008.
The biggest change recorded was fewer Australians being very satisfied with the political system (14.2 per cent) than 15 years ago (23.4 per cent).

Australia lagged in fourth position behind Vietnam, Cambodia, and Taiwan in being happy with the system of governance.

Professor Nicholas Biddle, a co-author of the study, said that while Australians’ overall satisfaction with democracy had dropped, overall democracy remained strong.
“However, what the data shows is we should not take this for granted,” he told SBS News.
A greater number of people who were born overseas were happier with democracy than their Australian-born counterparts.

Education was found to be the clearest predictor of a person’s satisfaction with the political system.

The report found that people who had not completed year 12 showed the lowest levels of confidence in the democratic process, with only 67.5 per cent saying they are fairly or very satisfied.
Four in five Australians with a university degree report that they are satisfied, with that confidence slightly dropping again amongst those with a postgraduate degree.
“Where there are really large differences are those with relatively low levels of education are far less satisfied with democracy, those with relatively low levels of incomes,” Biddle said.

Biddle said researchers looked at the perceptions of Australia’s income distribution and how it related to democratic attitudes.

“Here we have far more people (who) think that the economic distribution is unfair compared to who think it is fair, and a slight increase in perceptions of unfairness over the last couple of years,” he said.
“Those perceptions are very closely related to those kind of views on democracy.”
This year alone, confidence among Australians in the government dropped from around 51 per cent to 48 per cent between January and April, falling again to just under 44 per cent by August.
Contributing factors such as the pandemic made significant impacts on confidence, with research completed by the Grattan Institute finding those with lower incomes were disproportionately impacted during the pandemic.
Biddle said government response to the pandemic saw confidence wane.
“COVID-19 was one of the biggest shocks that we’ve experienced, and the way in which government responded to those shocks certainly explains some of those differences.”
While Biddle says this data warns that the nation must avoid complacency, he also says the levels of satisfaction remain reasonably stable and support for non-democratic systems is also lowering.
“The extent to which people held what you might call anti-democratic views, there’s much more positive news,” Biddle said.
“Relative to the region, Australians are far less likely to think we should get rid of parliament, that we should only have one political party, that the army or military should govern and that we should get rid of elections.
“And also through time, Australians appear less likely to kind of support anti-democratic attitudes. so that’s kind of a positive.”

The study’s findings were sourced from the ANU Australian Electoral Study, the Asian Barometer Survey and ANUPoll, a series of three polls conducted by ANU every year.

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/people-in-vietnam-and-cambodia-have-more-faith-in-democracy-than-australians-study-shows/a2a8dsmjh People in Vietnam and Cambodia have more faith in democracy than Australians, study shows

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