Australians’ Trust in Democracy Hits an All-Time Low

It’s no secret that Western democracies around the world are struggling to appeal to the everyday person, with extremist parties, like Antifa in the US, the Brexit Party in the UK, as well as the rise of the National Rally in France, perfectly articulating what’s happening in our societies today.

Australia, in particular, is struggling with trust levels in politicians. As this report highlights, their trust has hit an all-time low since the founding of the country. Through a range of attitudinal surveys with the Social Research Institute at Ipsos on the relationship between trust in the political system and attitudes toward democracy in Australia, the institute defined political trust as “keeping promises and agreements.” It could be similarly defined as politicians’ accountability.

The report highlights the growing trust divide between government and citizens, noting the decline of democratic satisfaction and a receding trust in politicians, their parties, and other institutions, like the media.

In total, fewer than 41% of Australian citizens are satisfied with the way their government is performing, which is down dramatically from 86% in 2007. Women are generally less satisfied with democracy and more distrusting of politicians following the recent #metoo movement, which has shed light on the sexual harassment that goes on behind closed doors for the elitist class of politicians.

The report concludes that just 31% of the population trusts the Australian federal government. In other words, lest it require stating, some 69% of Australians don’t trust their national government. In electoral speak, that is a massive landslide. The state and local governments fair slightly better, but are still at dismal levels. The respondents articulated their biggest grievances with politicians as:

  • They are not accountable to their promises

  • They don’t wrestle with issues that actually matter

  • Big business has amassed too much power over them

This distrust extends to civil servants, with only five departments getting more than 50% of the popular trust: police, military, well-being organizations, universities, and health care. Lastly, trust in political parties came in at just 16%. I think you’d need to be willfully blind to not recognize that Australians do not trust their national political parties.

The Desire for Democratic Reform is Strong

The survey concluded by asking questions about democratic reform, with 9 out of 15 proposed reforms receiving a 50% or higher support response. The top five reforms that were favored by respondents include limiting money spent in elections, the ability to recall ineffective MPs, giving all MPs a free vote in parliament, co-designing policies with everyday Australians, and the implementation of citizen juries to solve problems that the government can’t seem to fix.

Liberal democracies are at a tipping point right now. Feeling the lack of representation, accountability, and government waste at every level in Australia has fueled an entire electorate to find a system of government that does work. It’s time to entertain the question of democratic reform, and how technology can expedite a means to an end. And it’s time to take this problem seriously and not in the cosmetic fashion which it has been parked at for many decades.