Pandemic leadership performance

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South Australians are pleased with their own community performance and that of our own State Government and Premier Steven Marshall during COVID-19 and 2020 more widely, according to the August Square Holes mind and mood survey of 400 South Australians. This is generally consistent across age, although some interesting patterns emerge such as the performance of Premier Marshall increasing with age.

While 68% of South Australians rate the overall performance of the community excellent or good, only a slightly smaller proportion rate the South Australian Government excellent or good (66%). The balance of people tend to give a fair or neutral response.

South Australian small and larger businesses were also viewed to be generally performing okay, although a larger proportion did not know. South Australian not for profits, disability services and charities had a larger don’t know response, which may indicate opportunity for such organisations to communicate to the general population of the challenging environment and the need for donations. 

Patterns were generally consistent across age groups, although South Australian businesses were perceived to be preforming better amongst 35-49 year olds, and weaker amongst 65+ year olds (largely from a stronger don’t know response).

Older South Australians are more likely to rate the performance of the local community as excellent or good, and 18-34 years gave lower ratings for the SA Government.

Metropolitan Adelaide South Australians gave higher ratings for the Government, and regional South Australians higher ratings for smaller businesses and not for profits.

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Premier Steven Marshall is viewed to have performed well during COVID-19 2020, with the clear majority (64%) giving a rating of excellent or good. This is well above other Australian state and territory leaders and a selection of overseas leaders. Prime Minister Scott Morrison (57% excellent or good) was also generally viewed as performing well.

At the other end of the performance scale, only 30% rated Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews as performing excellent or good, and a similar proportion gave National Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese an excellent or good rating. 

In saying this, all Australian leaders performed stronger than the three overseas leaders measured

  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson : 22% excellent or good (18% don’t know)
  • Chinese Premier Li Keqiang : 17% excellent or good (31% don’t know)
  • US President Donald Trump : 14% excellent or good (6% don’t know)

Performance of Premier Steven Marshall increased with age, with 18-34 year olds also providing lower ratings for other Australian state premiers other than Victoria’s Daniel Andrews, where South Australians aged over 50 provide lower levels of excellent and good ratings. 

South Australians aged 35-49 provide higher ratings from US President Donald Trump, as was as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Premier of the People’s Republic of China’s Li Keqiang.

Global research generally indicates historically that in times of economic and other instability, confidence in leaders grows. This does not always to translate into election victory, yet it does illustrate a general level of trust that our political leaders will deliver when we need it most. 

Some quotes from Square Holes’ COVID-19 focus groups with South Australians …

“I think South Australia as a state is doing really well… I think that they have tried to facilitate people’s needs as much as possible as far as financially. There are going to be people who win, when they shouldn’t be… I don’t blame the government because I think they’ve had to have knee-jerk reactions to a situation that is quite critical and dire. It’s just what has to be done. There are people who are going to lose out, and that’s just the situation we’re in.”

“This is something that’s new to everybody. It’s new to the government, it’s new to business. There is different information coming out daily about what is right, what’s wrong. We changed every couple of days on what we are locking down. We don’t have history to fall back on and say this is what should be done. We’re is learning as we go… Maybe in hindsight we’ll look back on those things and say we shouldn’t have done that.”

“I work for a big organisation in hospitality and a small non-profit. Everyone has done their best in this time of uncertainty. I was happy to see that some cafes have put out food for people in need and some organisations have stepped up to help people who are homeless. We are in this together as a community. People are working together, even by keeping social distance and looking after each other.”

There is supporting evidence from Square Holes’ research and other data that how South Australians feel we have collectively performed well during COVID-19 and 2020, particularly in a world of economic and wider chaos. This has provided a most valuable confidence boost from how adaptable we are. As reported previously in the mind and mood summaries, pride of South Australians appears to be on the rise from how we have dealt with the challenge.This will hopefully have positive ramifications for the economy moving forward, as we harness the psychological safety of South Australia. Perhaps our positive mental state from being in a State geographically isolated from a world struggling will trigger a positive economic future.

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