Allianz Future Optimism Index: Australians' optimism about economy stuck at 12-month low

Sydney, 15 December 2011

Allianz and Newspoll have joined forces to conduct a bi-monthly survey which measures Australians' level of optimism about the future of the economy, environment and society, as well as their overall happiness. The results for these four measures are combined to create the Allianz Future Optimism Index.

November results

The overall Allianz Future Optimism Index - which combines measures of Australians' optimism about the future of the economy, society, environment and happiness - has remained constant at 60 out of 100 since July.

However, as usual, the story is in the demographic movements within the different measures of optimism, particularly in relation to optimism about the future of the economy.

Twenty-nine percent of Australians were optimistic about the economy when the Allianz Future Optimism Index commenced in November 2010.

Australians' optimism about the economy fell to a survey low of 22% in May. Despite a short-lived uptick in July, optimism fell back to this low in September and Australians' uncertain economic outlook has continued at this level in November.

Commenting on the results, Allianz Australia Managing Director, Terry Towell, said “consistent with the more recent fall in optimism recorded by some surveys based on narrower measures of consumer confidence, the Allianz Future Optimism Index's broader measure of Australians' optimism about the economy continues to wallow at a 12-month low of 22%, first reached in May 2011.”

“Thus, nearly 4 out of 5 Australians are either pessimistic or neutral about the future of the economy. The ongoing uncertainty about the global economy, particularly the European debt crisis, appears to be continuing to take its toll on Australians' optimism about the economy.”

A breakdown of the latest Allianz Future Optimism Index shows interesting variations across the nation.

November saw significant falls in optimism among Western Australians, from 33% in September to 21% in November, and South Australians, from 22% to 15% over the same period.

“The proportion of Western Australians that are optimistic about the future of the economy has fallen significantly, from one-third in September to a low point of 21% in November. This was just below South Australia's September result of 22%, but not to be outdone as the least optimistic of all Australians, the proportion of South Australians that are optimistic about the future of the economy fell to only 15% in November, the lowest of all States,” according to Mr Towell.

Men's optimism about the future of the economy, which is typically more bullish than that of women (19%) has hit a low point of 24%, compared to their survey high of 34% in November 2010.

Coalition voters continue to be less optimistic than their Labor counterparts

Perceptions about the future vary markedly between those with different political party allegiances.

Labor voters have historically been around twice as likely to be optimistic about the future of the economy as Coalition supporters, For example, in September, 37% of Labor voters were optimistic about the economy compared to only 17% of Coalition voters, probably reflecting the fact that Labor is in power nationally.

This difference has continued in November, although the gap has narrowed, with 32% of Labor voters optimistic about the future of the economy compared to 18% of Coalition supporters.

About the Allianz Future Optimism Index

The Newspoll survey on which the Allianz Future Optimism Indexes are based, asks around 1200 Australians to rate each of the following statements on a scale of 0-10, where 10 is extremely optimistic and 0 is not optimistic at all: 1. The future of the economy;
2. The future of the environment in relation to pollution and climate change;
3. The future of our society in relation to crime levels and community values;
4. The overall future prospects and happiness for you and your family.

The responses to these questions are multiplied by ten to obtain an equivalent score out of 100 and averaged to create an index score out of 100 for each question. The four sub-indices are then averaged to obtain the overall Allianz Future Optimism Index.

In the analysis of the survey, respondents that give a score of 8 or more out of 10 are regarded as being optimistic and those with a score of 3 or less out of 10 are regarded as being pessimistic. The remainder, that is, those scoring between 4 and 7 out of 10, are referred to as being more neutral. Results based on these definitions are given as a proportion of the demographic group in question (eg 30% of Australians are optimistic/pessimistic about the economy).

More detailed demographic and geographic results for the Allianz Future Optimism Index are available on request.

The latest survey was conducted by telephone among a national sample of 1205 adults aged 18+. Fieldwork was conducted over the period of the 16-18 September 2011 and results were post-weighted using the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics population estimates.

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