“The environment is now clearly the top issue facing Australia,” Mr Evans said. “The truth is that the tide of Australians’ concerns about environment issues has been slowly rising for the past couple of years.”
Unsurprisingly, younger Australians are the most worried, with 48 per cent of Millennials and 45 per cent of Gen Z’ers putting the environment on their top three list.
But concern among older people is catching up, with 42 per cent of Baby Boomers also putting it on their list and 30 per cent of “Builders”, aged over 73.
When asked to explain their environmental concerns, participants gave a range of answers, Mr Evans said.
“When we unpacked the reasons why Australians selected the environment, people mostly attributed their worry to climate change, drought and bushfire. Some linked these topics, and others discussed climate change and drought in relation to natural resource management failings related to water and bushland. Comments were also made about waste, consumption, population growth and plastics.”
Participants were asked which political party they felt was best able to address their environmental concerns.
Generation X, Millenials and Gen Z’ers ranked the Greens highest, while Baby Boomer and Builders nominated the Coalition.
No age cohort put Labor first to manage the environment.
“The ALP was mostly absent from Australians’ psyche when we asked them about which political party is most capable to manage environmental concerns,” Mr Evans said.
But confidence in political parties’ ability to solve environmental problems was low across the board, Mr Evans said.
“A relatively high proportion of younger Australians did not know which party was most capable and a relatively high number of older Australians believed that none of them were capable.”
A decade ago, when Ipsos first started surveying Australians about their top concerns, just 20 per cent of Australians put the environment in their top three issues list.
Concern collapsed to about 10 per cent by 2013 when the Gillard government and its “carbon tax” were both axed by the incoming Abbott government. Under Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership, concern swelled to around 20 per cent. During the Morrison government’s two-year tenure, concern has doubled.
Jessica Irvine is a senior economics writer with The Sydney Morning Herald.