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Australians had a profound, yet highly responsive outlook to pandemic

MEDIA RELEASE: 15 June 2020: Leading Australian research company, Lewers Research, has released its 10th and final regular report into the health, social, economic and behavioural impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Australians showing a highly cautious, yet responsive outlook, followed with effective and preventative actions, over the last three months.

From mid-March 2020, Lewers began surveying their online consumer panel, PurplePatch, and documented results, using the data to better understand the effect the crisis was having on the community as a whole. Through their findings, Lewers swiftly garnered valuable longitudinal data in the ever-changing attitudes, sentiment, and behaviours, during the course of pandemic crisis.

According to Lisa Lewers, CEO and Founder of Lewers Research, “COVID-19 quickly pivoted from being something incredible that was happening to other countries, to making its presence felt on our doorstep.

“We were determined to contribute in some way that was relevant. We decided to create a weekly report to make sense of a rapidly changing and unprecedented point in time. We wanted to provide context for decisions makers, a lens into the behaviour and emotions of Australia, to help them understand their own best way forward.”

“Understanding what people are thinking and feeling is more important than ever before – the insights from Lewers have provided SEEK with a great baseline understanding of how the general community are responding to COVID-19.” Elyssia Clark, Head of Customer Insights and Strategy, Seek

Key findings of the Lewers COMMUNITY RESPONSE NOW Reports

‘She’ll be right’ character and outlook sorely tested – but the resilience of the Aussie battler is winning
“Thoughout the COVID lockdown the Aussie spirit and character and ‘She’ll be right’ attitude has taken a bit of a battering. In my long professional career, I have never seen such openness or willingness to share sometimes harrowing details of personal experiences. But despite the emotional rollercoaster of the last three months , the spirit and strength of Australians in adversity shines through.” Moira Callard, Head of Qualitative Research, Lewers

The unevenness of personal impacts across different sectors of society
What really struck us across the three months of personal story-telling was how uneven the impacts of COVID have been on individuals and families. It has literally touched everyone, sometimes in quite profound ways. From essential workers guilty about having secure jobs, to others devastated by loss of jobs and, businesses; families, adult kids and grandkids losing their homes, bunking in with elderly parents or extended family to cope. Some were continuing on with their lives with little impact and others were experiencing welfare and charity for the first time. But for as many bleak stories told, we heard just as many inspiring ones, focused on supporting communities, friends, families and loved ones through unprecedented times.

The 10th report documents the personal journeys of ten individuals through the last three months of the pandemic.

Frustration with Government contradictions and conspiracy theories
After an initial wave of support for Federal Government efforts – with JobSeeker and JobKeeper, agreement with initial lockdown measures, and the formation of the National Cabinet – the constantly changing rules and guidelines became a source of frustration and confusion, especially as states enforced their own restrictions and states of emergency. Anger grew that there was no ‘one voice’. Much confusion also around the Black Lives Matter protests fueling resentment by some that the protests were allowed to proceed despite risks of community infection. Interestingly, the Protestor testing positive sparked conspiracy theories it was all made up to avoid other marches happening!.

Huge Momentum to support Buy Australian-made
The pandemic has brought nationalism and the importance of supporting the Australian economy and people to the fore. Buy Australian-made is seen as important because it supports the economy (81%), provides jobs for Aussies (78%), supports local businesses (79%) and reduces over-reliance on imports (69%).

Sentiment to Buy Australian-made has jumped up in response to strong feelings around Australia having become too dependent on other countries, and the time for that to change is now. Amidst media reports of racism allegations of anti-Chinese sentiment in Australian, the absolute majority in our COVID longitudinal study are measured in their comments, but they want a shift back to local manufacturing where practical, to support Australian producers and to set up fail-safe so we are ‘never caught out like this again.

Despite the challenges, cautious optimism for the future
Our longitudinal study revealed so many challenges: working from home, teaching from home, fighting boredom, restless kids, restless parents, no cuddles with grandparents, embracing new technology – Zoom/Teams/Facebook, Netflix fatigue, no sports, no meals out, ,no coffee café sanity breaks. There were other serious ramifications too: personal safety concerns in the home due to frayed nerves, financial stress, divisions on the ways to cope; worries about absent friends and family; guilt about still having a job when so many close have not or are stood down.
While optimism grows for the end of lockdown – 76% of Australians believe lockdown will continue for at least another one to three months with 31% believing it will continue for 6 months or more. This in part reflects the concern among some that a second wave is imminent and aligns with the finding that 44% of parents are not comfortable sending their children to school right now.

According to Lisa Lewers, the COVID-19 reports became a valuable weekly analysis for its audience, around this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.
“It has not only been a significant eye opener but has amplified the need in documenting consistent longitudinal studies on what matters to the Australian community,” Lisa said.

“The value in having our own online community, PurplePatch, is that we have, at our fingertips, more than 7000 respondents who are willing and able to answer questions – swiftly and accurately. They have become a true and transparent barometer in what Australians are feeling and experiencing, during these unprecedented times.

“While there was a tsunami of media reports, our weekly report became the go-to document encapsulating the mood and actions of the nation, with a concise and considered suite of valuable information and insights.”

“Lewers free COVID-19 Sentiment reports have been an invaluable resource across the last 3 months. We shared them widely across the business, dovetailing well with our Marketing planning cycle. For example they helped us refine messaging for our Homecare teams, judge appropriate tonality and the right moments in time for each. We picked up on themes like reassurance on safety measures, practical help like helping educate our customers on tech use, skyping etc., as well as when it was timely and right to move from tactical back to broader brand messaging. Thank you team Lewers!” Matt Ferguson, Brand and Insights Lead, Uniting

Lisa explains that Lewers will continue to monitor key aspects of sentiment and behaviour as part of the longitudinal study, but the need for regular reports has lessened now the first wave of the pandemic has passed.

“As terrible and daunting as COVID-19 has been, from a researcher’s perspective it has been a unique opportunity to observe human behaviour. I, for one, found it fascinating how quickly we turned to hoarding toilet paper and developing conspiracy theories on one hand and discovering a new sense of community and purpose of the other. I feel privileged to have the unique opportunity measure this phenomenon firsthand and share our knowledge to help others, ” said Lisa.

View the latest report and all past reports here.

Website: Lewers

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