Two-thirds of parents are concerned that lockdowns are affecting their children’s mental health, and half are concerned about new behavioral problems, according to the latest Guardian Essential poll.
The survey of 1,100 people has also found strong support for the government to keep employers delivering Covid-19 vaccinations to their employees through workplace vaccination programs — something that is being pressured by the industry but which Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ruled out.
With New South Wales in its eighth lockdown week, and Victoria and ACT both hitting with a two-week extension on Monday, the latest snapshot of national sentiment reveals ongoing resilience among the adult population but growing concern over the impact of lockdowns on children .
Delta outbreaks across the country have forced more than 16 million Australians to shut down, and the Essential survey suggests that 65% of people are concerned about the impact on their children’s mental well-being – a six percentage point increase over a month ago since.
Most parents and caregivers (69%) report that they are worried about their children missing out on socializing with their friends, peers and teachers, while 61% say their children are behind in their learning.
About half have expressed concern that their child is developing behavioral problems, with 23% saying they are very worried.
For those with older dependent children, more than half (58%) said they were concerned that lockdowns affected their child’s readiness for life beyond school, while 56% said children “suffered from exam stress exacerbated by lockdowns. “.
The question of how year 12 students will sit their HSC this year has become a contentious issue in NSW, with the state government rolling out a vaccination program for teens in hotspot areas.
The concern for children is also traced in people’s confidence in the federal government’s plans to control young people through the pandemic. Nearly half (43%) of respondents say they are not sure there is a plan to minimize the long-term impact of distance learning on children and young people’s education. A further 39% are sure that a plan exists, but believe that it has not been well communicated.
In the midst of the debate over extending the vaccination to children, about a third of the population (35%) reported that they were unsure that the federal government had a long-term plan to protect children and adolescents from getting Covid-19.
According to data from the Federal Health Department, about 7,000 people under the age of 19 have already been infected with the virus since the beginning of the pandemic in Australia, including about 2,700 children under the age of 10.
The Australian government has approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine for people aged 12-15 years and is also considering an application from Moderna for the use of its mRNA vaccine for children.
The Essential survey measured the level of vaccine willingness for children, with about 50% of people with children saying they would get them vaccinated, while 41% say they will, but not right away.
In contrast, the level of vaccine readiness among the adult population is declining, with the latest survey suggesting that 68% have either been vaccinated or will get it “as soon as possible” – the highest level all year round.
About one in four say they will be vaccinated, but not immediately, down from 42% in May, while only 8% say they will never be vaccinated. This was as high as 16% in July, showing a dramatic shift in emotions since the NSW outbreak began in mid-June.
Three-quarters of the population also support making vaccinations compulsory for workers in occupations with a high Covid transmission risk, such as health care, the elderly and the disabled, and education, where only 10% oppose it.
The majority of people (68%) believe that the government should indemnify employers who provide Covid-19 vaccinations to their employees through vaccination programs in the workplace, which is twice as many who believe that employers should be responsible , if something goes wrong.
Fair Work The ombudsman last week issued new advice to employers who were considering making the Covid vaccine mandatory for workers, saying they needed to be careful and seek legal advice before doing so.
Morrison has pushed back against business calls for a government-backed indemnity scheme, saying it would look like a mandatory “by stealth” vaccination program.
Despite lockdowns in Eastern Australia and concerns about their impact on mental health, the study found that more people expressed positive feelings over negative emotions when asked about their mental state. For example, about 25% of people reported being “pessimistic”, while 42% said they were “optimistic”.
While about half of the respondents expressed concern about how their mental and physical well-being and financial situation were affected by the pandemic, more people reported their current emotional state as calm, satisfied or energetic than stressed, frustrated and lethargic.
The most common negative feeling was people who felt insecure (34%), with this mood more prevalent among women and the elderly, but also this was slightly less than the 36% who said they felt safe.
About a third of people are worried that demands for social distancing affect their personal relationships, and 37% say they feel more lonely than before the pandemic.
Amid persistent criticism of the federal government for its handling of the pandemic, polls that have a margin of error of 3% find that dissatisfaction with the federal government can stabilize, with 41% now saying they believe the federal government is making a good job, while 35% rate the federal government’s handling of the outbreak as “bad”.
This is a slight improvement on the government’s positive rating compared to earlier this month, but the negative rating is still the highest recorded since the question was first asked in March 2020.
A similar number of people believe that the NSW government is also doing a good job (42%), but it is the lowest of all states and is declining rapidly, down from 47% earlier this month and 57% in early July.
The Western Australian Government had the highest approval rate of 87%, followed by South Australia (68%), Queensland (66%) and Victoria (56%).
Following the publication of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last week, Essential also decided voters’ views on the risks posed by climate change.
People were most concerned (81%) about more extreme and frequent forest fires and longer fire seasons, while the increased frequency of droughts in already arid areas also worried 79% of respondents.
About three-quarters of people identified rising sea temperatures, rising sea levels, floods and severe storms as worrying issues.
On the question of what kind of government action was best to combat these risks, the most popular measure was to provide greater funding for roof terrace for solar cells and household batteries, which was supported by 70% of the population.
61 percent support setting a nationwide CO2 emissions target by 2030, including 54% of coalition voters, while 53% want to end government support for coal and gas mining in Australia.
About two-thirds (63%) said they would support the introduction of a CO2 emissions tax on high-carbon industries — such as the price signal abolished by Tony Abbott when he came to power in 2013 — including 54% of the coalition voters.