The 2024 Lowy Institute Poll: Economic Pessimism in the Young

In March 2024, the Lowy Institute surveyed approximately 2,000 Australians. The Institute's report on the poll, released this week, unveiled observations on the varying degrees of economic optimism and pessimism among Australians. 

The only question that used the word "optimistic" related to "economic optimism" was: "Thinking about Australia's economic performance in the world. Overall, how optimistic are you about Australia's economic performance in the world over the next five years?"

A majority of Australians (58%) still say they are either 'optimistic' (54%) or 'very optimistic' (4%) about Australia's economic performance in the next five years.

This drop represents a four-point drop in overall economic optimism to the second-lowest level in the past two decades. The lowest occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The economic outlook is divided by generation. Overall economic optimism fell by 11 points last year to 44% in the 18–29 age group, while optimism levels held steady among those over 45.

The commentary suggests, "In the past, Australians' sense of economic opti-mism has proven resilient, even remaining buoyant during the 2008 global financial crisis. But the pandemic changed that, plunging overall economic optimism in 2020 to the lowest point (52%) in the Lowy Institute Poll's history."

Why has 2024, with so much opportunity, fallen to the second lowest?

Age Differences

The University of Melbourne's May 2023 report, "Too young to vote but not too young to care: Year 11 students' wellbeing and political voice", reinforces the age difference in optimism and pessimism about Australia and the world. The research revealed significant pessimism among Year 11 students about their future, Australia's future, and the world's future. Aligning with the Lowy report, only 3% of these students were very optimistic about the future of Australia and the world. Furthermore, 24% were optimistic about Australia's future, with a meagre 14% optimistic about the world. On the other hand, 21% were pessimistic about Australia's future and 31% for the world, while 8% were very pessimistic about Australia's future and a staggering 31% for the world.

The Centre for Optimism

In response to this growing pessimism, we founded the Centre for Optimism, driven to foster hope and positivity. Based on our extensive research on optimism and Australian leadership, we aim to clear the pervasive 'fog of pessimism.'

At the Centre, we ask the open-ended question, "What makes YOU feel optimistic?"

We also encourage exercises like "My Optimism Superpower" and "Imagine My Best Self" and host workshops at conferences, workplaces, and schools. Through these endeavours, we empower individuals to envisage and shape a brighter future for themselves, Australia, and the world.

As we navigate the trials of our times, it's time to reshape our mindsets and conversations. By asking, "What's been the best thing in your day?" or exercising our "Optimism Superpower" and imagining our best selves, we can instil hope and positivity in our children, workplaces, communities, and the world. By joining forces, we can overcome this storm and emerge stronger, better, and more optimistic about the future. This is our call to action, our challenge, and one we can and must rise to meet.

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