How concerned are Australians about housing?

Polls show housing and housing affordability is of rising concern for Australian households

28 September 2017

A recent cluster of polls from different polling companies shows that the issue of housing and housing affordability is of rising concern for Australian households. This is happening against a backdrop of house price increases, rising housing need and the falling proportion of households able to find a home in social housing. Across Australia:

While a scientifically run opinion poll can indicate what a population is thinking about a particular issue, results can vary from one poll to the next. For this reason polls are perhaps most useful when they show trends over time in what populations are concerned about. This in turn can indicate to governments which issues and policies they might make a priority.

The Essential Vision survey into ‘What are the three most important issues for Government?’ shows Housing Affordability rising from equal 6th place in 2014 to second place in 2017 (behind ‘Improving our health system’, which has been the first concern since the poll series commenced).

Figure 1. Essential Report: What are the three most important issues for Government? 2014 to 2017

Source: Essential Report (collated data)

In both the Roy Morgan poll ‘Most Important Problem Facing Australia’ (May 2017) and the ISPOS Issues Monitor June 2017, ‘Housing affordability’ and ‘Housing’ rate as the top third concern for respondents. The ISPOS poll shows the changes in perceived importance by survey respondents over 2010–17.

Figure 2. IPSOS: Top Issues Facing Australia, 2010 to 2017

Source: IPSOS Issues Monitor June 2017

This long-term data shows that, for example, concern about housing had been greater than the economy in 2010 but then sank back. However by January 2017 the issues of housing was rising while concerns for the economy were dropping (to 27% and further to 20% in June 2017). In May 2017 housing was mentioned as a concern by 30 per cent of survey respondents.

Such observations raise the questions as to whether polls do reveal a shift in public opinion and is that shift of sufficient magnitude to underpin policy reform?