Researchers for the latest Mapping Social Cohesion Report asked Australians to name their biggest concern off the top of their heads, with 19 per cent saying climate change.
This has jumped up from 10 per cent last year, with the economy still being our number one concern in 2019.
Professor Andrew Markus said when they first started asking people about their concerns in 2011, climate change hovered around six per cent.
In 2019 the economy was the number one concern at 28 per cent, followed by climate change at 19, then social issues at eight per cent.
“The only other time where we’ve seen such a big jump was in 2015,” Professor Markus said.
That year the country watched the Lindt Cafe siege, on top of the news of more Australians joining ISIS in the Middle East.
“In that year concern about terrorism and security went from one to 10,” Professor Markus said.
“So this time we’ve gone from 10 to 19 (on climate) in one year. So I think that’s quite significant.” Climate concerns were the highest in young adults, with 43 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds naming it as their number one issue.
But it was lowest among 35 to 44 year olds and over-75s at 12 per cent and eight per cent respectively.
The survey of more than 3500 Australians was taken shortly after the federal election in May, with Professor Markus pointing to the heightened debate of environmental issues.
It also found while the majority of Australians felt immigration was a good thing for economy, views on intake or the impacts on infrastructure were negative.
But the majority of Australians would reject a return to the racist White Australia policy.
Professor Markus also pointed to a growing “social desirability bias”, with huge differences in the types of answers given on immigration between respondents over the phone and online.
Australians’ trust in the federal government’s ability to do the right thing by people has remained flat, having hovered around 30 per cent since 2017.
“The level of trust is at a low level but it has not gone down further,” Professor Markus said.