ACT News

ANU launches new research centre, with some depressing ANUpoll results

Australians are increasingly pessimistic about the country’s future and their satisfaction with democracy has fallen steadily since 2007.

The latest ANUpoll also shows overall confidence in Parliament and the union movement remains low.

ANU Vice Chancellor Ian Young says the new research centre "is the embodiment of the purpose of our national university".
ANU Vice Chancellor Ian Young says the new research centre "is the embodiment of the purpose of our national university". Photo: Rohan Thomson

The poll was issued on Tuesday morning at a launch of a new research centre at the Australian National University.

The commercial wing of the university - ANU Enterprises - has paid about $10 million to buy the Melbourne-based Social Research Centre, which operates a $20 million a year polling and research business. The centre will be part of the new Australian Centre for Applied Social Research Methods at the ANU, or AusCen.

The Melbourne operation oversees some 280 call centre staff and 65 permanent staff, with a handful of executives expected to relocate to Canberra to work in the new ANU operation. It will draw on the university's expertise in social policy, health and education to provide analysis of public policy.

Vice-Chancellor Ian Young said AusCen would help "fulfil the university’s mission of addressing topics of national importance. It is the embodiment of the purpose of our national university".

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Social Research Centre chief executive Darren Pennay said academics previously had relatively little involvement in developing social research methods in Australia.

"The creation of AusCen and the commercial alignment between AusCen and the Social Research Centre changes all of that. It is a giant win for the advancement of social research methods in this country and fills a gap in the Australian social research landscape," he said.

The new centre will continue producing the quarterly ANUpoll.

The latest poll, of 1388 people, was conducted in late June and early July. It found a decline in public opinion on politics and governance, with only 56 per cent of Australians believing their vote made a difference, down from 70 per cent in 1996. An all-time low of only 43 per cent believed it made a difference who was in power.

Australians were more pessimistic than they were in 2008 at the start of the global financial crisis. In 2014, only 30 per cent believed their lives would be better in five years (37 per cent in 2008), while 34 per cent believed their lives would be worse (25 per cent in 2008).

But younger people were more optimistic. The poll found 44 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds believed their lives would be better in five years, compared to 23 per cent aged 55 or older.

The poll found confidence in federal Parliament was running at 6 per cent in 2014, compared to 10 per cent in 2008 and just 5 per cent in 2001. Support for unions was also 6 per cent in 2014, compared to 3 per cent in 2001.

Overall satisfaction with democracy was at 72 per cent, which was comparable with Germany, Japan and Canada, but lower than the United States (78 per cent) and Denmark (94 per cent).