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”

  1. ‘Steve777 says:
    Saturday, May 23, 2020 at 5:16 pm

    Regarding our population density, let’s do a back of the envelope calculation.

    The Sydney and Melbourne Metro areas are about 10,000 km each (which includes some National Parks). The combined area of all of Australia’s capital metro areas might be double this, say 40,000 sq km. Let’s say 70,000 sq km to include the larger non-capital metro areas like the Gold Coast and Newcastle.

    Australia’s land area is about 7,000,000 sq km. Of our 25.7 million people, 85% (those classified as living in urban areas) live on 1% of the land area. Admittedly the 1% is in smaller chunks scattered over the whole, but even so our wide open spaces can’t save us’

    The population density across two thirds of Australia has decreased since 1788. Across much of the rest, population density is declining as a result of farm consolidation and the drift from small towns to regional towns.

    The Greens scream blue murder about the clearing of 20ha hear and a 12,000 ha there. Small beer.

    70,000 sqkm is probably an underestimate of the current built environment. But it equates to 7 million ha.

    The Green New Deal must identify whether the doubling will occur entirely on top of the current built environment or whether it will require clearing up to 7 million additional ha.

  2. Thanks Cud for your detailed response yesterday, you must have missed my response.
    From my readings today I am still surprised that NSW has not identified any community clusters such as have been found in Victoria. I think Gladys opening up on the restrictions is dangerous without the targeted testing to determine if it is lurking in communities.
    Once again thanks for your detailed posts, trying to keep up without a fully functioning iPad is difficult.
    NOTE to others don’t send devices to apple for repair during a pandemic.

  3. William Dietz
    The worst polio outbreak in US history was in 1952. There were 58,000 cases and 4,000 deaths. It spurred a unified public and government national response.

    Today, with almost 1,600,000 cases and 100,000 deaths, there are people telling us COVID-19 is no big deal.

  4. Steve777

    [Well-informed Australians will be noting that about 76% of the 500-odd active Covid cases are in NSW, with about 19% in Victoria and the other 5% (just 27 cases)]

    Even better informed Australians would note that these figures are rubbery because the means by which active cases are measured are not the same from state to state.

    As has been explained here before, New South Wales does not accept that the case of a diagnosed infection becomes non-active less than 21 days after diagnosis.

    A person suffering Covid is contacted after that time. If they describe any ongoing symptoms, they are not called back for another two weeks. This explains the anomalous result for NSW.

    Since Victoria has had close to 250 cases in the last 21 days (compared to less than 70 from New South Wales in the same period), if either state adopted the others’s approach to determining active cases, the present gap would not exist.

  5. The more than a century old car rental firm Hertz Global Holdings Inc (HTZ.N) filed for bankruptcy protection on Friday after its business all but vanished during the coronavirus pandemic and talks with creditors failed to result in needed relief.

    Hertz said in a U.S. court filing on Friday that it voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 reorganization. Its international operating regions including Europe, Australia and New Zealand were not included in the U.S. proceedings.

    The firm, whose largest shareholder is billionaire investor Carl Icahn, is reeling from government orders restricting travel and requiring citizens to remain home. A large portion of Hertz’s revenue comes from car rentals at airports, which have all but evaporated as potential customers eschew plane travel.

    With nearly $19 billion of debt and roughly 38,000 employees worldwide as of the end of 2019, Hertz is among the largest companies to be undone by the pandemic. The public health crisis has also caused a cascade of bankruptcies or Chapter 11 preparations among companies dependent on consumer demand, including retailers, restaurants and oil and gas firms.

    U.S. airlines have so far avoided similar fates after receiving billions of dollars in government aid, an avenue Hertz has explored without success.

  6. mundo

    Chalmers has been on ABC and Sky, Albo on Newsradio and I’m not sure what else.
    Please stop pretending that they aren’t trying.

  7. sprocket_ @ #3141 Saturday, May 23rd, 2020 – 5:26 pm

    Mundo would have Labor emulating Bozo Boris – lots of publicity, loss of credibility

    er, that’d be Bozo Boris who got himself elected British Prime minister?
    I see your point, I think.
    The ALP must remain pure.
    You know, like the Greens so they never sully their hands with actual government.
    Good point.
    Point taken.
    You’re a legend.

  8. Kirky

    One of the reasons we don’t have the no of cases as overseas is due to our population density – a massive factor.

    Colorado state, pretty sparse. 1,300 dead and counting. Some densely populated countries do well. The difference , luck and whether you had an idiot running the place. I think the “idiot’ factor is one of the , if not the, most important one.

  9. One for you Sprocket

    Can you see where Ron Hoenig, kind of gifted a safe NSW seat for the ALP at age 61, is criticising the NSW Government for lifting restrictions in the post?

    [Ron Hoenig May 21 at 8:22 AM ·

    The premier said travel restrictions for recreational trips across NSW will be lifted.
    In an effort to get business and the tourist industry moving, the government stressed how important it was to maintain social distancing and maintain good hand hygiene.
    People have responded overwhelmingly to the restrictions put in place that has reduced the spread of COVID-19. Please remember this virus has not gone away, it is still highly infectious and can kill you or those close to you. We cannot be complacent with this killer.
    The government has warned us if there are any outbreaks that will force them to reintroduce restrictions. Stay safe everybody.]

  10. Ron and Dom should be pictured together pulling a beer at Souths Juniors

    [Ron Hoenig MP

    Yesterday at 8:30 AM ·

    COVID-19 UPDATE 21 May
    Latest updated COVID-19 figures of suburbs in my electorate by postcode and local government areas released by NSW Health
    We are doing so well some more restrictions have eased to get back some movement in the economy and some jobs back. Please remember we must all help slow the spread of the coronavirus, save lives and protect our health workers. ]

  11. Assantdj

    The thing that worries me most about NSW is the atittude of some senior people in NSW Health.
    The Ruby Princess ought to have been a case of isolating and testing everyone. Instead they invented an aribtrary 1% rule. Playing probabilities and losing. Why? Bean counters in charge. Then the nursing home disaster. Why not blanket test the staff from the word go? Bean counters in charge. Then not dispersing and isolating nursing home residents. Incompetentence on the part of officials who want to take “caluclated risks”.

    The same people I fear are also putting the brake on mass (targetted) testing of asymptomatic people. For instance they could advertise that if you want to travel you should get tested, symptoms or not.

    And to add to what I said yesterday. I think Victoria is to some extent detecting more of those hidden cases than is NSW. To the extent that our social isolation habits remain, this may not matter. In other words, those hidden carriers left in NSW may simply not reinfect enough people anyhow. But its a huge risk if we now restart regional travel. Only then do we find out if some of these hidden carriers also like to travel.

  12. Rex Douglas says:
    Saturday, May 23, 2020 at 3:45 pm
    I wonder if the day will come that sees the Victorian Nats follow the lead of the WA Nats and become independent.
    Interestingly they once were. Back in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the Liberals ruled federally in a coalition with the Nats, then known as the Country Party, and were also in coalition in every state jurisdiction, except Victoria.
    The Liberals governed Victoria from 1955-82 without the Country Party, experiencing a dream every other Liberal politician craved. The premier for most of that time, Sir Henry Bolte, was openly contemptuous of the Country Party. For its part, the Victorian Country Party tried reaching out to Labor, even adopting some Labor-oriented positions. A stance that recalls some of the earlier “rural socialism” of the Country Party in its early days.
    However Labor made clear it wasn’t interested in dealing with them.
    They were interesting times.

  13. The Washington Post reports that the coronavirus may still be spreading at epidemic rates in 24 states, particularly in the South and Midwest, according to new research that highlights the risk of a second wave of infections in places that reopen too quickly or without sufficient precautions.
    Trump’s playing a blinder!

  14. The official website still shows The Hills and Penrith as being areas for increased surveilance.
    Yet there’s not explanation of what “increased surveilance” means.

    Roadblocks and swabs?

  15. BK @ #3170 Saturday, May 23rd, 2020 – 6:04 pm

    The Washington Post reports that the coronavirus may still be spreading at epidemic rates in 24 states, particularly in the South and Midwest, according to new research that highlights the risk of a second wave of infections in places that reopen too quickly or without sufficient precautions.
    Trump’s playing a blinder!

    Whenever it gets mentioned that Trump is taking Hydroxychloroquine, considering its side effects, the line, ‘Stop it or you’ll go blind!’ comes to mind.

    The premier said travel restrictions for recreational trips across NSW will be lifted.
    In an effort to get business and the tourist industry moving, the government stressed how important it was to maintain social distancing and maintain good hand hygiene.”

    Oh yes, the government naively assumes people will behave, right?
    Despite evidence to the contrary.
    Why aren’t we offering to test people who want to travel?

  17. “The National Cabinet was mostly about having announceables.”

    i.e. Making Scrotty look good.



    I envy you. And its not like my NZ friends aren’t rubbing it in either.

    I went to Nobby’s Beach the other day for a walk. I cannot drive so my mum had to drive me there and wait in the car. First time in 2 months I’ve actually enjoyed a bit of freedom.

    Hang in there. I am actually reasonably confident that the citizenry will force elimination upon the pollies, especially once they have seen NZ and some Oz states do it (and most of our states are in the home straight now).

    Not to mention the example set by a non-island country like Vietnam.

    There is no good answer a politician can give in that situation to the question: why not us too?

  18. I don’t know about the other states but there is absolutely no appetite to open the borders in SA. Lots want social restrictions about eating out relaxed though. Ten patrons inside a restaurant seems a bit pointless for the business.

  19. Dio,
    In Sydney and the rest of NSW, restaurateurs are scheduling 3 sittings per night, strictly enforced for time, and continuing to do takeaways. It kind of adds up. However, we are throwing caution to the wind and allowing 50 max very soon.

  20. Cud
    Sorry I can’t find previous response, this iPad takes forever to do anything, and I can’t even download graphs which is why I look for your informative posts.
    I agree that the level of testing is problematic. It is very easy to say we don’t have any cases in acertain area or the numbers are low. The statement may appear to be true but if you aren’t testing then a more appropriate response is we don’t know because we didn’t look.
    One of my big grievances in all things health is the move towards having people with no knowledge being gatekeepers to the professionals who do. In the case of a pandemic the entire response should be based on the advice of experts in infection control and politics should have been kept out of the health response. If that was the case our borders would have been shut earlier, people would have been given more detailed advice earlier and we would now be a fully functioning economy.
    For me the good news is my only gripe is an outdated iPad because I live in one of the lucky states. Our public transport is still running at levels that allow for social distancing and although more people are out and about people are not champing at the bit to undo all the good.

  21. “Hang in there. I am actually reasonably confident that the citizenry will force elimination upon the pollies”

    Thanks for being cheerful JM.

  22. Victoria with 6.5 million people, is testing at about 60,000 per million.

    There are only three countries with populations larger than 6.5 million with higher rates of testing, two of which are Spain and Belgium.

    Victoria’s result is from massive testing done but long after the peak of cases. At the peak only WA was doing less testing among the states

    NSW, with 8 million people, is about 51,000 tests per million. There are eight countries with both higher populations and higher rates of testing – all have thousands of more cases.

    NSW’s rate of testing has been more consistent.

    Not heard anyone say in Vic or NSW (or anywhere else) for some time they genuinely wanted to be tested but were knocked back.

  23. C@t
    I wouldn’t mind at all if the 50 max were outdoors and well spaced.
    They could be closing more streets in the evening to make room.

    But the REAl danger is still public transport. Has Gladys finally taken steps to enforce social distancing there?

  24. What I don’t understand about the Pacific Paradise of New Zealand is why about 15% of the total population permanently lives in Australia

  25. Is it true some states count the number of tests done and others the number of people tested. As anyone who tests positive will have a minimum 3 tests this would affect the numbers per population

  26. OC

    When I went to my Great-Aunt’s 100th bash at New Plymouth’s finest restaurant in 2008, the preferred place of employment of many of her relatives was the north of Western Australia.

  27. No amount of huffing and puffing by some about The App one way or the other is next to useless.
    By and large the efficacy of the device was way oversold.
    In itself it neither provides increase protection nor does it allow unwanted persons to track others.
    The effective actions for CV19 are all to do with distance and isolation between those with the miserable luck to be infected and those not…..
    Threats (soft or hard) that non-users should be included/excluded in this or that activity by one or two here are nothing more than adjuncts to some totalitarian regime of their dreams – either of the Left or Right variety….
    Most in Oz have not, do not want, can see no reason, do not have the means to engage in The App. That is their choice……..and good luck to them…..

  28. Cud Chewer @ #3183 Saturday, May 23rd, 2020 – 6:14 pm

    I wouldn’t mind at all if the 50 max were outdoors and well spaced.
    They could be closing more streets in the evening to make room.

    There sure needs to be a fundamental change of mindset with regards to things like that as we head into a Post Covid World.

    I wasn’t too pleased to read that we may need twice yearly vaccine doses to cope with it either.

  29. Assantdj

    I think that its mostly tests done not individuals tested but I’m not absolutely sure
    On the 1st May WA moved from counting the number of individuals to the number of tests.

    I’m pretty sure thought that retesting doesn’t accoutn for a big fraction of the tests as the vast majority come up negative and that’s it.

  30. Shellbell

    Ron Hoenig performed Trojan work during his stint as Mayor of Botany – 31 years! He deserves whatever sinecure is going, for keeping that region of Sydney in the ALP fold at all levels virtually unbroken.

    To the best of my knowledge, Ron never made it onto the front page of the Tele pulling beers, with the Holt St smoke being blown up his arse. Dom, as he is now known to the punters, Perottet is clearly being boosted as the next in line.

  31. Cud Chewer @ #3181 Saturday, May 23rd, 2020 – 5:42 pm

    “Hang in there. I am actually reasonably confident that the citizenry will force elimination upon the pollies”

    Thanks for being cheerful JM.

    Uncharacteristically, some might say. 🙂

    One of the good things to come out of this, I think, was seeing the population basically vote with their feet and force the pollies to act (the ones that were not already acting).


    poroti @ #3191 Saturday, May 23rd, 2020 – 5:52 pm


    Did you say risk of a second wave ? No wuckas in Trumpland.

    Trump says he won’t close the country if second wave of coronavirus hits.

    It will seal his fate if he doesn’t.

  32. Oakeshott Country

    Occupation by stealth. Playing the long game 🙂 Anyway there has always been plenty here..

    The history of Māori in Sydney and the critical role they played in the success of the town has been minimised by historians. Indeed most Sydneysiders today think that Māori contact, enterprise and migration is a relatively new phenomenon.
    1788–1840, Māori were often described as ‘New Zealanders’ [2] – the white inhabitants of Sydney called themselves ‘British’. Māori were a familiar and common sight in Sydney.

    The Polynesian protégés of Parson Marsden became a familiar sight in the streets of the little colonial town. The residents of Parramatta were so accustomed to their presence in subsequent years that Māoris occasioned considerably less comment than would a party of them today.

    Australians haven’t changed , still jeopardizing trade by upsetting foreigners 🙂

    For the most part, Māori were treated well, however, the Sydney Gazette on 3 December 1829 reported

    a number of New Zealanders are at present in town, and all who notice them as they pass along the streets can bear testimony to their order, peaceable conduct. We cannot, however, say as much for the behaviour of those who boast superior civilization. On several occasions, the poor Islanders have been most wantonly assailed in the streets with stones and other missiles.

    The paper stressed the lucrative trade between the countries and how it could be jeopardised by retribution for this incident.

  33. One of the groups of people I’d like to see tested are transit staff. The nature of their work means that if any increase in positive cases was occurring staff linked to rail infrastructure being tested might be instructive.

  34. Cud

    Do you dispute that the Victorian testing rates are among the best in the world, leaving aside countries with small populations?

  35. Rupert is looking at near death scenario for his shrinking empire – the C19 pandemic and lockdown responses has killed advertising. The sports ban has killed pay-for-view.

    His expensive hard copy gutter rags and profligate sporting rights for Foxtel are losing millions a day. Rupert needs things back open, lockdowns lifted, punters spending, business advertising, politicians kowtowing – ASAP!

    If GladysB is dragging the chain, let’s remind her that Dom is pulling beers for the punters. Too bad about Dan and Pala – the normal Rupert protection rackets tactics aren’t working..

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