While COVID-19 infection rates are surging in many parts of the world, apart from a few hotspots, Austria has seen a relative moderate rise overall. But with fears of a massive second wave still lingering, Austrians no longer believe that the crisis will end soon: The proportion of Austrians who believe that the crisis will last for at least six more months rose from 34% at the end of April to 61% at the end of June. And the number of those who believe that it will last for at least another two years is growing, too. Younger people, and those who consider the health risk posed by the Coronavirus as relatively low, are more optimistic than others.
What else have we found since our last update early July? (On a technical note, we no longer survey our representative panel of 1,500 Austrian residents in weekly intervals; from mid-June to mid-July we ran bi-weekly, and from mid-July onwards, monthly intervals. More details on our survey design can be found here).
Carbon crash. What climate activists have feared, namely that the COVID-19 crisis pushes concerns for the climate into the background, seems to have come true in Austria: At the beginning of the pandemic, a clear majority of respondents saw the crisis as an opportunity for action to protect our environment and climate. Fewer and fewer people share this view. Austrians are less supportive of measures to protect the climate than they were before the crisis. This applies in particular to those who have suffered income losses; and the longer people are affected by reduced work hours, the less concerned they are about the climate. Higher formal education, in contrast, correlates positively with climate consciousness. And a majority would like to see government measures to contain the climate crisis rather than responsibility for climate action to be devolved to individuals.
Caring for elderly and ill family members remains very difficult. 13% of our respondents have family members requiring care. One third of those are being cared for by live-in, round-the-clock carers, another third by a part-time carer, and the rest receive care from family members. Unsurprisingly, the majority of care is provided by women. When about 40% of all respondents with family members requiring care experienced changes in the organisation of care due to the pandemic, in one in five families, relatives substituted for a professional carer (who, in Austria, often come from Eastern European countries and could often not travel due to COVID-19 restrictions).
Childcare troubles. About 20% of parents of children aged 14 and younger struggled with childcare at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis in March. This figure rose to over 24% by mid-May and fell back to about 17%. The re-opening of schools in mid-May may have brought relief in this respect. But when asked in the middle of June, over one in five respondents (22%) said that they would struggle to find childcare were their child to fall ill, and almost the same proportion (19%) expressed concern about childcare during the summer.
Home, sweet home(office?). Amidst global concerns that the acceleration of automation due to COVID-19 may increase inequalities, most of our respondents — and women in particular — would like to retain some of the pandemic-induced changes in the way they work. Over half of our respondents still work significantly fewer hours than they did before the start of the pandemic — and, contrary to what many observers may have expected, most would like to keep working fewer hours. In addition, many have experienced the increased flexibility and the reduction in work-related travel during the crisis as positive. Also the decrease in bureaucracy due to the digitisation of workflows and application procedures (also around entitlements such as healthcare and sick leave) are seen mostly positively. Having said this, particularly older respondents also expressed concern about the increasing blurring of boundaries between their work- and their personal and family lives.
In what we trust. Public institutions such as the parliament and the government, the police, the army, the healthcare system, but also the Austrian public broadcasting corporation, enjoyed very high levels of trust in the early stages of the crisis. This trust is now decreasing. In terms of trust in parliament, voters of the two large opposition parties — the Social Democrats, and the Freedom Party — as well as non-voters and people with lower levels of formal education are among those who now trust the least.
Blue smoke. Party affiliation correlates with smoking: Voters of the right-wing Freedom Party, and the Team HC Strache (a party founded around the controversial former vice-chancellor Heinz Christian Strache, who is not represented in parliament), are more likely to smoke than others. We found no correlation between party preference and drinking.
We end on some positive news regarding our own project: We received funding to continue our survey! More about this in our next update.
An overview of all updates (with links) is below.
Part 10: The Coronation of Austria: Part 10