More Australians Valuing Freedom Over the Law: Survey

The younger the age group, the more value placed on freedom
By Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
October 1, 2021 Updated: October 5, 2021

According to a survey of Australian attitudes, ongoing government-mandated lockdowns are pushing more Australians to value freedom over the law.

At the end of the June quarter of 2021, 29.3 percent of Australians agreed with the statement that “Freedom is more important than the law.” This was a significant shift compared to the 21.6 percent that valued freedom over the law during the quarter ending March 2020, one year prior.

Overall, positive attitudes towards freedom increased sharply after lockdowns and health restrictions were regularly deployed by governments across the country.

“The COVID-19 pandemic began in mid-March 2020, and by the end of that month, Australia had entered an unprecedented nationwide lockdown that confined people to their homes for large parts of the next two months,”  Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine said.

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Percentage of Australians that agree with the statement: ‘Freedom is more important than the law.’ (Source: Roy Morgan Single Source, July 2016 – June 2021. Average quarterly interviews, n = 13,468.)

“Immediately following the imposition of the nationwide lockdown, the share of Australians agreeing that ‘Freedom is more important than the law’ jumped seven percentage points to 28.6 percent. This figure has remained elevated ever since and is now at 29.3 percent in the June quarter 2021,” she said in a press release on Sept. 28.

The figures were obtained from Roy Morgan’s Single Source survey, a long-running research program into consumer behaviour and attitudes conducted over several years. Each quarter Roy Morgan interviews over 10,000 Australians.

Attitudes among women towards freedom also shifted with an increase of 8.4 percentage points from 16.5 percent (March 2020, pre-pandemic) to 24.9 percent at the end of June.

Men’s attitudes also increased 6.8 points from 27 percent (March 2020) to 33.8 percent.

The figures also found that younger age groups were more likely to value freedom, with 38.1 percent of Generation Z (born 1991-2007) agreeing with the statement followed by 35.4 percent of Millennials (1976-1990), 26 percent of Generation X (1961-1975), 18 percent of Baby Boomers, and 17.2 percent of pre-Boomers.

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Percentage of Australians agree that: ‘Freedom is more important than the law’ by Generation in March Quarter 2020 (pre-COVID-19) cf. June Quarter 2021. (Source: Roy Morgan Single Source, January–March 2020, n=10,852, April – June 2021, n=16,183. Base: Australians 14+)

Generation X and Millennials saw the most significant change in attitudes compared to last year, with an increase of 12.2 points (Millennials) and 8.5 points (Gen X), followed by 6.4 points from pre-Boomers, and 5.4 points from Gen Z.

“These two generations (Gen X and Millennials) are primarily comprised of young people in their 20s and 30s who also constitute a large share of workers in the construction industry that drove the protests in Melbourne last week,” Levine said.

“It’s a fair guess that protesters arguing against mandatory vaccinations and the latest lockdown would be very likely to agree that ‘freedom is more important than the law.’”

Australia has seen some of the lowest infection and death rates from COVID-19 by global standards, resulting in state and territory leaders (barring New South Wales) readily using tough measures to contain any outbreak of the virus, including locking down entire cities or states (sometimes over a single infection), closing borders, and implementing tough restrictions.

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Protesters walk down Swanston Street in the Melbourne CBD, Australia, on Sept. 22, 2021. (Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

The Victorian government under Premier Dan Andrews, for example, has relied heavily on a tough suppression strategy to deal with COVID-19, such as imposing immediate “Stage Four” restrictions, which include curfews, limits on movement within a 5km radius, and closing non-essential retail outlets.

Melbourne is also is now on track to break the world record for the longest number of days under lockdown, with the city enduring 243 days of lockdown since the pandemic broke out last year as of Oct. 1—just shy of the 245-day record set by Bueno Aires.

However, after six separate lockdowns, Victorian frustrations with restrictions has bubbled over with protests breaking out in Melbourne several times last week. At the same time, footage has emerged showing police deploying heavy-handed tactics that have led to investigations by senior officers.