Majority of Australians support UNESCO Great Barrier Reef ‘in danger’ listing

Australia Institute

More than seven in ten (72%) Australians support UNESCO’s recommendation to add the Great Barrier Reef to the World Heritage ‘in danger’ list, just 11% oppose. Furthermore, Queenslanders are most likely (50%) to think that climate change is the largest threat to the Great Barrier Reef and least likely (4%) to think that the health of the Great Barrier Reef is not threatened.

The Australia Institute surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,007 Australians on 30 June and 1 July 2021, about their views on the health and ‘in danger’ listing of the Great Barrier Reef.

Key Findings:

  • More than seven in ten (72%) Australians support UNESCO’s recommendation to add the Great Barrier Reef to the World Heritage ‘in danger’ list, just 11% oppose.
  • Majority support was observed across all voting intentions
    • 67% of Coalition voters, 78% of Labor voters, 82% of Greens voters, 54% of One Nation voters, and 63% of Independent/’Other’ voters support the UNESCO recommendation to add the Great Barrier Reef to the World Heritage ‘in danger’ list.
  • Respondents were also asked about the largest threat to the health of the Great Barrier Reef
    • More people chose climate change than any other option, with nearly one in two Australians (46%) selecting climate change as the greatest threat to the reef’s health;
    • A further one in four Australians (26%) think that water pollution (e.g. from agricultural run-off) is the largest threat to the reef;
    • Just 5% of Australians do not think the health of the Great Barrier Reef is threatened.
  • By state, Queensland residents are most likely to think that climate change is the largest threat to the Great Barrier Reef, with one in two Queenslanders (50%) selecting this option. Meanwhile, Queenslanders are also least likely (4%) to think that the health of the Great Barrier Reef is not threatened, along with WA residents (4%).

“The Prime Minister may think UNESCO’s decision to list the Great Barrier Reef to the World Heritage ‘in danger’ list is ‘appalling’, but our research shows he is out of step with an overwhelming majority of voters who back UNESCO’s recommendation,” said Ebony Bennett, deputy director of the Australia Institute.

“The Great Barrier Reef is iconic and under Australia’s stewardship it is in decline. Its health should be above politics and, indeed, voters from all sides of politics support the UNESCO recommendation to add it to the World Heritage ‘in danger’ list.

“The jobs of tens of thousands of Queenslanders are inextricably linked with the health of the Reef, so it is little surprise that Queenslanders are the most likely to identify climate change as the greatest threat to the reef.”

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