What is the AVS?

Since 1981, the World Values Survey has tracked changes in the values and beliefs of citizens in 97 countries, including Australia.

These surveys have identified considerable change in what people want out of life and what they believe. This is the seventh wave of the World Values Survey, allowing us to track changes between countries but also over time. In each country, we ask people the same questions (across a range of different languages) to measure their views on religion, gender roles, work, democracy, good governance, social capital, political participation, cultural diversity, and environmental protection. Countries will have until the end of December 2019 to complete their survey fieldwork.

The Australian component of the World Values Survey is referred to as the Australian Values Study or AVS. The Australian National University has been responsible for the AVS since 2005, with data collection carried out by the Social Research Centre.

We surveyed more than 1,800 Australians during 2018, and several key themes have emerged.

Why is it important?

The WVS is the world’s largest social research study. It is conducted in 97 countries across the world, covering almost 90 per cent of the world’s population. The study has identified considerable change in what people want out of life and what they believe.

This is the seventh wave of the WVS, allowing us to track differences between countries and changes over time. In each country, the same questions are asked (in a range of languages) to compare views on religion, gender roles, work, democracy, good governance, social capital, political participation, cultural diversity, environmental protection, and general wellbeing.

Key themes

Despite our claims to larrikinism, we have a keen respect for authority and many of us are open to ‘strongman’ and technocratic styles of government.

However, we remain committed to the concept of democracy and are broadly satisfied with how Australian democracy is functioning.

Confidence in a range of civic and political organisations is in decline, but most acutely towards media organisations.

Our thoughts on immigration remain mixed. We believe that migrants make Australia more diverse and vibrant, but also that immigration increases social conflict.

And around half of all Australians believe in God, and an afterlife with a heaven and a hell.

Authoritarian attitudes

The World Values Survey asks a range of questions to measure people’s feelings about authority generally, and authoritarian government specifically.

The most direct question asks how Australians would view ‘having a strong leader who does not have to bother with parliament and elections’. Although the largest group of respondents view this style of government as ‘very bad’, a consistent core of Australians believes it would be ‘good’ or ‘very good’. This core is increasing in size, but very slowly and from a low base.

Democracy and trust

Nonetheless, we remain committed to the broad concept of democratic government.

Almost nine in ten Australians believe that ‘having a democratic political system’ is either a ‘very good’ or ‘fairly good’ form of government. Further, that percentage has been increasing since 1995.

Confidence in political and civic organisations

Although Australians remain supportive of the concept of democracy and broadly satisfied with how the political system is operating, their confidence in specific political organisations continues to fall.

Very few Australians express confidence in the country’s political parties, and that number is declining even further. In 2018, 27 per cent of Australians report having ‘no confidence at all’. No more than one per cent of Australians has expressed having ‘a great deal’ of confidence in parties in any of the four times the question has been asked since 1981.

Thoughts on immigration

In accordance with other major surveys of Australian public opinion, the World Values Survey finds mixed views with regard to immigrants and immigration policy. Broadly, we agree that immigration improve the lives of immigrants and makes Australia more culturally diverse. We tend not to believe that immigration increases the rate of crime nor the risk of terrorism. Fewer than half of Australians surveyed believe that immigration leads to social conflict. On employment benefits, Australians seem unsure. Almost half believe immigration helps to fill important job vacancies, but one third believe it increases unemployment.

God and the afterlife

More than half – 57 per cent – of the Australians surveyed report that they believe in God. Similar numbers believe in an afterlife generally and heaven specifically, but only 31 per cent believe in hell.

Resources

Information on the WVS, including published results from previous years, are available at www.worldvaluessurvey.org.

This report focusses on several key themes that emerged from the survey. The full results will be available from the Australian Data Archive, www.ada.edu.au.

About the survey

The in-scope population for the 2018 AVS was adults (18 years of age or over) who are residents of private households in Australia. The sampling approach used address-based sampling with mail as the primary contact method. A sequential mixed-mode design was applied to data collection with participants self-completing via an online or paper-based survey.

The data collection period for the AVS was 3 April to 6 August 2018. The total achieved sample size was 1,813, equating to a response rate of 30.2%.

This research was undertaken by the Social Research Centre in accordance with the Privacy Act (1988) and the Australian Privacy Principles contained therein, the Privacy (Market and Social Research) Code 2014, the Australian Market and Social Research Society’s Code of Professional Practice, and ISO 20252 standards.

Queries

If you have any queries about the research, please contact:

Dr Jill Sheppard
School of Politics and International Relations
College of Arts and Social Sciences
The Australian National University
Acton ACT 2601

Phone: 02 6125 7898