Essential Research: coronavirus restrictions and conspiracy theories

A poll suggests a significant proportion of the population believes coronavirus was engineered in a Chinese laboratory, but other conspiracy theories remain consigned to the fringe.

Courtesy of The Guardian, some headline results of another weekly Essential Research poll on coronavirus, the full report of which should be published later today. This includes regular questions on federal and state governments’ handling with the crisis, of which we are only told that respondents remain highly positive, and on easing restrictions, for which we are told only 25% now consider it too soon, which is down two on last time and has been consistently declining over five surveys.

Beyond that, the survey gauged response to a number of what might be described as conspiracy theories concerning the virus. By far the most popular was the notion that the virus “was engineered and released from a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan”, which has received a certain amount of encouragement from the Daily Telegraph but is starkly at odds with the scientific consensus. Agreement and disagreement with this proposition was tied on 39%.

Thirteen per cent subscribed to a theory that Bill Gates was involved in the creation and spread of the virus, with 71% disagreeing; 13% agreed the virus was not dangerous and was being used to force people to get vaccines, with 79% disagreeing; 12% thought the 5G network was being used to spread the virus, with 75% disagreeing; and 20% agreed the number of deaths was being exaggerated, with “more than 70%” disagreeing. The poll also found 77% agreed that the outbreak in China was worse than the official statistics showed.

The poll was conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1073.

UPDATE: Full report here.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

3,318 comments on “Essential Research: coronavirus restrictions and conspiracy theories”

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  1. frednk
    Scrott from Marketing fixed everything with his reforms.

    Last year, the Morrison government topped up the fund with another $2 billion and rebadged it the Climate Solutions Fund.

  2. The number of people who believe in these various conspiracies persuades me that we are not as “educated” as we suppose.

    Nor as “clever”. Barley growers are very unhappy this morning.

  3. lizzie @ #3 Tuesday, May 19th, 2020 – 4:49 am

    The number of people who believe in these various conspiracies persuades me that we are not as “educated” as we suppose.

    Nor as “clever”. Barley growers are very unhappy this morning.

    It would be interesting to see how many respondents believe in multiple conspiracies and what percentage of the population believe in at least one.

  4. Good morning Dawn Patrollers

    With justification, Peter Hartcher describes Trump as the “mad sheriff” as he examines Australia’s strategic position.
    Katharine Murphy unpicks the latest Essential poll of 1,073 respondents that suggests the economic shock caused by the pandemic has shaken people’s faith in their short and medium term labour market prospects, with low optimism about wages growth and prospects for promotion once the crisis has passed.
    Australian shares are set to catch a global wave of enthusiasm about rising prospects for a vaccine against the COVID-19 virus. ASX futures were up 2pc.
    China’s President Xi Jinping has backed a comprehensive review of the global response to the coronavirus, but has stopped short of endorsing an independent probe advocated for by Australia and the European Union.
    The global economy will take much longer to recover fully from the shock caused by the new coronavirus than initially expected, the head of the International Monetary Fund said, and she stressed the danger of protectionism.
    The SMH editorial says that prolonged continuation of closed state borders looms as a huge economic challenge and should not be viewed just as basic interstate rivalry. The national cabinet should turn its attention to resolving the issues co-operatively, in the interests of the whole nation’s recovery from the debilitating pandemic.
    Frank Bongiorno writes that crises can make leaders but they can also break them – or, as happened over the summer with Morrison, nearly break them. He says that despite Morrison’s good start on the pandemic Morrison faces immense challenges of rebuilding the economy in the context of debt, deficit, global depression and the danger of new outbreaks of disease, may well be a more testing challenge to his leadership than anything so far.
    The editorial in the AFR says that a year on from its devastating federal election defeat, it is no clearer where modern Labor stands on the mainstream economic reform agenda.
    Michelle Grattan discusses a five point plan that Bill Kelty has proposed to help Australia climb out of the recession.
    South Australia is headed for huge State Budget deficits of more than $1 billion both this year and next, as spending explodes and tax returns plummet due to unprecedented coronavirus pandemic responses.
    Troy Bramston writes that Scott Morrison can’t make history while he’s still a mystery.
    The big stimulus spending has just begun. Here’s how to get it right, quickly suggests Richard Denniss.
    Bevan Shields writes that the European Union would be allowed to raise joint debt under an unprecedented coronavirus recovery plan considered a political and fiscal no-go zone only two weeks ago.
    New data suggests the economy is on the road to recovery. A survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found the number of Australians with a job has steadily increased over the month to early May.
    The unemployment rate gets the headlines but it’s underemployment we should look out for warns Greg Jericho.
    Fergus Hunter tell us that Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has condemned online misinformation linking 5G technology to the coronavirus and sounded the alarm about a growing vandalism risk to critical telecommunications infrastructure.
    Experts are calling for couriers and other workers at risk of becoming “super-spreaders” to be the focus of a new wave of coronavirus testing, after a dozen McDonald’s outlets were closed when a delivery driver tested positive to COVID-19. The article lists a number of occupations that pose similar risks.
    Hundreds of McDonald’s employees in Melbourne are on unpaid leave for 14-days because they may have come into contact with a delivery driver who tested positive to Covid-19.
    Ian Harper, the economist who chaired Australia’s minimum wage panel the last time it decided to freeze the pay of Australia’s poorest workers has warned any increase this year risks higher unemployment and lower spending.
    The editorial in The Canberra Times says that it’s a time for empathy, and evidence-based measures that actually help people gain new skills and meaningful employment, instead of just punishing them for falling on hard times.
    The Grattan Institute’s Marion Terrill understands Gladys Berejiklian’s nervousness about relaxing the lockdown. She says travelling on public transport is risky at present, and her plan is a sensible attempt to deal with those risks head-on.
    Mike Foley reports that the Morrison government is eyeing legislative changes to allow its clean energy agencies to fund carbon capture and storage from fossil fuel projects in a bid to unlock $2b of private investment to reduce greenhouse gases. Here we go again!
    According to the AFR businesses are manipulating their cash flow to artificially suppress monthly revenue and game the federal government’s $130 billion wage subsidies. Surprised?
    The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has appointed top Sydney barrister David McLure SC, a former legal officer attached to the special forces turned rising star of the Sydney bar, to lead efforts to prosecute decorated Afghan veteran Ben Roberts-Smith for alleged war crimes.
    Processing of both temporary and permanent visas appears to have all but ceased, even ahead of the pandemic, writes Abul Rizvi.,13906
    The government has tossed $130 billion at business, the corporate largesse is dripping all over the big end of town. Even highly profitable $8 billion property developers such as Mirvac are rolling in the free money, yet when it comes to Virgin Australia they are being all punctilious about “letting the market sort it out”. Michael West reports on the future of Virgin.
    Matt Johnson reports that Australia’s big banks have come under fire for charging ‘exorbitant’ interest rates on credit cards tied to Virgin Australia’s frequent flyer program.
    The AIMN piles into Andrew Laming over his comment in the media recently suggesting that parents send their children back to school, regardless of the recommendations of the various Education Departments around Australia.
    The head of an international group coordinating coronavirus vaccines has warned against “vaccine nationalism”, saying she fears for what happens once a vaccine is found.
    Stephen Bartholomeusz explains how The US is playing a dangerous game as it seeks new pressure points to demonstrate how tough it is on China.
    Jennifer Hewett writes about the death of hot-desking, a cost saving masquerading as a HR fad.
    Anna Patty reports that new allegations of misconduct have been levelled at St Andrew’s College after a landmark review had recommended cultural change. This outfit certainly has form!
    Jenna Price explains just what that form is.
    Rosalind Dixon proposes ways in which the government spend on childcare can be effectively repurposed to assist our economic recovery.
    David Crowe reveals that the Morrison government is yet to spend more than $600 million in cash promised one year ago for community projects, just as local councils call for urgent funding to boost the economy.
    There is no way bankers want to get embroiled in the battle between billionaire retailer Solomon Lew and the big shopping mall owners and retail landlords, but they’re keeping a close watch writes Karen Maley.
    The London Telegraph explains how Saudi Arabia has been forced to take a good look at itself.
    The Washington Post says Trump has proclaimed the latest phase of pandemic response the “transition to greatness”. But Trump appears poised to preside over the eventual transition more as a salesman and marketer than a decider.
    The Washington Post reports that US Attorney-General William Barr says he does not expect a Justice Department review of the FBI’s handling of 2016 election interference to lead to criminal investigation of former president Barack Obama or former vice-president Joe Biden.

    Cartoon Corner

    David Rowe

    Cathy Wilcox$width_828/t_resize_width/q_86%2Cf_auto/806ae91c7947787a8f5feda5e548f5e0cf8cc61d,jpg
    Andrew Dyson

    Matt Golding

    Andrew Weldon

    Mark David

    Chris Downes

    John Spooner

    From the US

  5. Simon Birmingham:”“Australia is deeply disappointed with China’s decision to impose duties on Australian barley,”

    Well just pick up the phone and give them a call Simon.

  6. Nor as “clever”. Barley growers are very unhappy this morning.

    They’ll keep voting National/LNP, as they always do.

    Australia should be spamming China with beer ads. Mmmm, refreshing Australian craft beer.

  7. Morrison setting out his new narrative for the Labor Party. Exclude them from discussions, then say they refuse to cooperate.

    We now await a “headland speech” next week where the Prime Minister will have his go at the post-virus ”vision thing”.

    Despite platitudes about a “united approach” to reshape the economy where he includes business, the unions and the states, he excludes the Opposition.

    Mr Morrison told The Australian he had low expectations of the Labor Party being “a willing partner in economic reform”, accusing Anthony Albanese of reverting to “fighting Tories” mode.

    He characterised Labor’s attempts in Parliament to extend JobKeeper to Australian airport workers employed by a foreign-owned company as a reversion to combative politics and “undermining” the scheme.

    There was something Trump-like in this redefining of reality to suit his own purposes.

  8. Spot the lie in this announcement by Trump.

    Jacob Greber
    · 1h
    BREAKING: Trump says “I’m taking it, right now”

    Lot of doctors, front line workers taking it too, says Trump

  9. Xi now supports a ‘comprehensive’ review.

    I assume that this will include why states like Australia refused to release full modelling and all data inputs at the beginning of the virus, why Australia banned travel from China and continued so to do when it was obvious that countries like the US were a major source of Australian infections. And why countries like Australia left overseas people from countries like India and China to beg for food and shelter.

    Naturally any comprehensive review will look at how Trump fucked up the management of the Virus in the US.

    Also, naturally the investigation should only start once the Virus is under control… next year at the earliest but perhaps even 2021. The long game beats a series of short games every single time.

    Xi has donated an additional $2 billion to WHO. Trump cut US funding to WHO.

    Xi is now punishing Australia for Huawei, treating Chinese nationals badly, singling out China for travel bans, and instigating a de facto attack on Xi’s handling of the Virus.

    While Xi was trying to bring Australia to heel on the Virus investigation and sundry other national insults to Xi (and hence China) Trump (and hence the US) helpfully thought it might be time to gut Australian industries which depend on JSF production.

    Compare and contrast Xi and Trump.

    Morrison (and hence Australia)? Mug in the Middle.

  10. Greensborough Growler @ #18 Tuesday, May 19th, 2020 – 5:37 am

    Barney in Tanjung Bunga @ #16 Tuesday, May 19th, 2020 – 7:33 am

    BK @ #14 Tuesday, May 19th, 2020 – 5:29 am

    But Trump has heard lots of good stories about it!

    I have a good story.

    I took it for Malaria prevention years ago and remember having some really vivid dreams.

    It was the first time I can remember dreaming in colour! 🙂

    Did it turn your hair Orange?

    No idea, I’d have to have hair first! 🙂

  11. Barney in Tanjung Bunga @ #19 Tuesday, May 19th, 2020 – 7:39 am

    Greensborough Growler @ #18 Tuesday, May 19th, 2020 – 5:37 am

    Barney in Tanjung Bunga @ #16 Tuesday, May 19th, 2020 – 7:33 am

    BK @ #14 Tuesday, May 19th, 2020 – 5:29 am

    But Trump has heard lots of good stories about it!

    I have a good story.

    I took it for Malaria prevention years ago and remember having some really vivid dreams.

    It was the first time I can remember dreaming in colour! 🙂

    Did it turn your hair Orange?

    No idea, I’d have to have hair first! 🙂

    You obviously didn’t have the good stuff, then!

  12. Yep. Trump is a master of distraction. And so many continue to fall for it.
    It is a running clusterf@@k, but yet as soon as Trump throws a bone of distraction. Everyone is chasing it. Sigh….


    Greg Sargent
    · 7h

    House Dems have learned that the State Department IG fired by Trump had mostly completed an investigation into the decision by @SecPompeo to fast track $8 billion in arms to the Saudis, I’m told.

    Dems are looking at a possible link.

    New piece:

  13. The Drum. Adam boasting about the huge rise in Oz subscriptions. But the truth is…


    News Corp have had an artificial bump because they offered 28 day free subscription – the numbers are smoke & mirrors for advertising cred.

    Adam Creighton is falling for his own marketing hype

  14. While Trump boasts about taking unproven drugs to combat coronavirus, meanwhile….

    Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, refused on Tuesday to rule out postponing the presidential election in November, a comment that fed directly into Democratic concerns that President Trump might use the coronavirus crisis to delay or delegitimize the contest and one that contradicted Mr. Trump himself.

    “I’m not sure I can commit one way or the other, but right now that’s the plan,” Mr. Kushner told Time magazine in response to a question about whether the election could be postponed because of the pandemic.

    The opinion of a White House staff member has no bearing on when the election is held. Even the president himself does not have the authority to unilaterally postpone Election Day, which by law takes place the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

  15. This is more likely the situation

    Replying to
    This is a stock scam.
    He and his pals hae invested heavily in it.

    trumpo is not taking hydroxychloroquine, he’s PUSHING it

  16. Vic,

    Hi Vic. Yes I did.

    Anything north of Grimshaw Street is your parish afaiac.

    Looking forward to Farm Vigano reopening, though.

  17. Drat, missed the “New thread” bit again. Sort of a repost. Can I go home now?

    Gina and Twiggy and Clive and other fossil fuel companies will be lining up with their greedy little hands out if this joke go through.
    The Emissions Reduction Fund, surprise surprise, is chaired by a former Business Council of Australia president so of course he thinks it’s a wonderful idea. Maatteess looking after maatteess.

    Deputy Dope and the Dopey Clan will just drift along in Sheriff Trump’s dust as he continues to wreak havoc everywhere. Deputy Dope will make meaningless noises and just pull his bandanna up to stop choking on the fallout from Dust Storm Donald.

  18. Victoria @ #27 Tuesday, May 19th, 2020 – 5:52 am

    This is more likely the situation

    Replying to
    This is a stock scam.
    He and his pals hae invested heavily in it.

    trumpo is not taking hydroxychloroquine, he’s PUSHING it

    Ever since he started spruiking it I’ve wondered what kind of kick backs he was getting. It therefore wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that this is true.

  19. GG

    Actually my parish is St Mary’s. Lol!

    Farm vigano is a very nice place.
    My niece who has autism attends a program at that site.

  20. Morning all. Thanks BK for the roundup, some good pieces in the Conversation.

    On the headline poll for this thread, 12% to 13% of Australians are confirmed idiots. No wonder Hanson and Katter get reelected so easily. It really is a sobering lesson. It is not just 2-3%. One voter in eight will fall for nonsense.

  21. So much money floating around and yet none of it will help bushfire victims. But it could fund some you-beaut fire-fighting machines.

    More than $51 million raised for the NSW Rural Fire Service during the bushfire crisis cannot legally be given to other bushfire relief charities and can’t be spent on injured or deceased firefighters, lawyers for the RFS have told the NSW Supreme Court.

    Comedian Celeste Barber raised $51.2 million for the RFS & Brigades Donations Fund in a Facebook appeal at the start of this year that initially sought just $30,000. As the appeal grew, Ms Barber said some of the money could potentially go to other charities, such as the Red Cross, or fire services in other states.

    A trust deed governing the RFS fund says any income should be spent “to or for the brigades” to assist them with “purchasing and maintaining fire-fighting equipment and facilities”, providing training and resources, and covering administrative expenses.

  22. Socrates

    Based on the anecdotal experiences I have had over past few weeks, I am inclined to believe the poll. Why are so many people gullible?

  23. Well at least by taking hydroxychloroquin, Trump won’t catch malaria when he visits the swamplands of Louisiana.

  24. There was a Conversation piece (well written) about a poll of leading economists on whether the lockdown was worth it. Over 70% said yes.

    Yet this is one issue where the economists should be ignored. Economists get in trouble when they imagine they can answer all questions. The inventor of welfare economics warned that it should only be used to decide between similar, measurable things. Fundamental social issues, like whether to feed the poor, should be decided on ethical and political grounds in a democracy.

    In this case, we don’t even know what the long term risks are from the virus. So we should listen to the doctors, who are the real experts.

  25. stuart stevens@stuartpstevens
    Trump is moving into the Late Elvis stage of presidency. Everyone around him trying to make as much money as they can fast and doctor giving him whatever he orders up.

    There is a kind of ‘end of days’ feel about the Trump govt, despite the polls that show him as competitive in those key states.

  26. Dr. Dena Grayson‏Verified account @DrDenaGrayson

    Numerous studies have shown ZERO benefit of #hydroxychloroquine, and this study in veterans showed more DEATHS in those who took the drug, yet @realDonaldTrump keeps hawking it.

    Ken Plume‏Verified account @KenPlume

    Ken Plume Retweeted Dr. Dena Grayson

    The moment when Fox News realizes that Trump will be killing off their viewer base.

    Even Neil Cavuto is stunned by Trump’s announcement that he’s taking #hydroxychloroquine: “If you are in a risky population here, and you are taking this as a preventative treatment…it will KILL you. I cannot stress enough. This will KILL you

  27. 12% thought the 5G network was being used to spread the virus

    I think we can say 12% of those polled had an IQ equal to room temperature.

  28. I see everyone has made the appropriate comments about Morrison’s stupidity regarding China.

    I would just like to add that in one thing China may have a point. There is a subsidy to farmers. It’s called the Diesel fuel rebate.

    This could be the first salvo in the international climate trade war.

  29. Victoria

    Good question. I don’t think its (only) lack of education or intelligence. It must be at least in part psychological. People are first latching onto a stupid idea. Then they are holding onto it in face of evidence to the contrary. The first bit could be desperation and ignorance. The second bit could be stubbornness or arrogance.

    But if I really knew the answer I would know why Australia fell for the Morrison government, or why people keep using financial planners.

  30. To identify exact locations, what3words has divided the world into a grid of 57 trillion blocks, each three metres square, each with its own unique address. The service, which works offline too, is being used by more than 80 emergency services across the world.

    It is also helping drones drop parcels on the right spot, assisting Airbnb visitors find the right entrance, and spreading to countries that have poorly run or non-existent address systems.

    The company’s chief executive and co-founder, Chris Sheldrick, said from London that he was inspired by his own experience of trying to receive packages in Hinxworth, a rural village north of the capital. It didn’t have traditional addresses.

  31. Guytaur

    Further to the gullibility Victoria and I discussed, most of those barley growers have probably voted National or Liberal since the day they failed high school. Careless words from those parties are destroying their incomes. Yet they will mostly keep voting for them like lemmings.

  32. Businesses are manipulating their cash flows to artificially suppress monthly revenue and game the federal government’s $130 billion wage subsidies, adding to cost blowout pressures on the coronavirus stimulus program.

    To qualify for JobKeeper a business must record or credibly forecast at least a 30 per cent decline in monthly or quarterly revenue between March 30 and September 27, compared to the same period last year. Large companies with annual turnover above $1 billion must suffer a 50 per cent revenue decline.

    Once eligible a business receives the $1500 a fortnight payment for each worker for six months, even if their revenue rebounds before the scheme expires in September.

    Companies and sole traders such as tradespeople are delaying billing their clients and deferring undertaking work for customers, according to sources across the business, accounting and tax sectors.

    Tax experts warned the Australian Taxation Office would target firms that artificially contrive their turnover to qualify for the wage subsidies.

    Tax Institute senior tax Counsel Bob Deutsch said the cash flow boost from JobKeeper had been very well received by struggling businesses, but it was open to exploitation.

    “One of the areas where there is likely to be manipulation is turnover,” he said.

    “You only have to satisfy it once and henceforth you are in until September or they rewrite the rules.”

    Grant Wilson, head of Asia-Pacific at macro advisory and data analytics firm Exante Data, said he was aware of accountants soliciting businesses to devise ways to qualify for the scheme.

    “There is businesses moving revenue around and delaying invoices for a month to qualify for the whole six months,” he said.

    “They are going out of their way to qualify for this very, very generous test to effectively write off the cost of their payroll for six months.”

    “That’s not Australian, that’s not fair and it’s soaking up the funding so the people who really need it are going to get hurt.”

    The program’s take-up has surged to more than 6.3 million workers across 888,249 entities, already surpassing the 6 million workers budgeted for under the uncapped $130 billion scheme.
    Treasury is due to review the scheme by June.

    Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last week “there’ll be some things to sort out” on JobKeeper, but that so far the changes required were relatively modest.

    About 40 per cent of enrolled businesses are sole traders, 39 per cent are companies, 15 per cent are trusts and 6 per cent are partnerships.
    The ATO has published an integrity rule aimed at stopping “contrived and artificial arrangements” that technically satisfy the eligibility requirements, but have been implemented for the sole or dominant purpose of accessing a JobKeeper payment.

    This includes bringing forward or delaying making supplies to a third-party customer.

    HLB Mann Judd tax partner Peter Bembrick said the ATO could go after any “schemes” linked to JobKeeper.

    “There are anti-avoidance integrity measures in the rules if sales turnover is pushed, for example from April into May.”

    “Anything that manipulates the numbers, the ATO can go after that.”

    K&L Gates tax partner Matthew Cridland said some businesses that had received JobKeeper may not be genuinely eligible and could have to pay back the ATO, plus penalties and interest.
    “To date the ATO has treated taxpayers with a velvet glove, but it will revert to the iron fist.”

    “If an employer makes business decisions that result in a decline in turnover, they may qualify for JobKeeper. However, it does not follow that they were genuinely eligible to access JobKeeper,” Mr Cridland said.

    “The ABC [Artificial, Blatant and Contrived] test would then apply where you would be asked was the scheme artificial, blatant or contrived? Was it undertaken with a sole or dominant purpose of accessing or inflating JobKeeper payments?
    “Ideally employers would have their eligibility reviewed and signed off by an external adviser that has taken into account the integrity measures.

    “However, many employers are understandably wanting to save on costs and some may view this as an unnecessary expense.”

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