Status of the initial data collected

The results presented in this preliminary report represent a snapshot from 596 participants collected on the 23rd June 2020 during the fourth wave of data collection for the project ‘Establishing the social licence for Government tracking in Australia’.

The reported representative sample was gathered through the data collection platform Dynata. 596 participants reported their demographics and their perceived severity of the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia and around the world. They then viewed a description of the COVIDSafe app, before answering questions about their attitudes towards the app, their views on their government during the COVID-19 pandemic, and their world views.

Notes on cleaning the data.

  1. Of the initial 596 participants collected, 36 participants were removed prior to analysis for indicating a country of residence other than Australia.
  2. A further 1 participant was removed prior to analysis for indicating they were below the age of 18.
  3. An additional 85 participants did not pass the attention check.
  4. Finally, 45 participants began and did not complete the survey.

After cleaning the data for the above participants, the final sample at analysis was 429 participants.

Descriptive Statistics

Gender was evenly divided between men (50%) and women (49%), and 94% of participants reported that they currently use a smartphone. Within our sample, participants most frequently reported as having a university education (57%) or a higher school education (34%). Ages ranged from 19 years to 91 years (M = 47 years, SD = 17 years). The distribution of reported ages was roughly uniform within the age range 20–80, and under represented for ages 80+.

Gender identification: Percentages
   Men  50.1
   Women  49.4
   Other  0.2
   Prefer not to say  0.2
   #Total cases  429
Level of education: Percentages
   Did Not Graduate High School  8.2
   Graduated High School  34.5
   Graduated University  57.3
   #Total cases  429

State representation: Percentages
   NSW  30.8
   VIC  24.0
   QLD  20.7
   SA  7.9
   WA  11.0
   NT  1.2
   TAS  2.3
   ACT  2.1
   #Total cases  429

Impacts of COVID

Participants reported as being under lock down for an average of 20 (SD = 29) days, with the most frequent amount of time in lock down reported as 0 days (n = 169, 39%). 16% of participants reported as having lost their job due to COVID-19. The most common source of COVID-19 information came from TV (52%) and newspaper (18%), followed by social media (11%). Of the 429 participants, 6 (1%) reported that they had tested positive with COVID-19, and 23 (5%) indicated they knew someone who had tested positive with COVID-19.

I have lost my job: Percentages
 I lost my job 
   No  83.9
   Yes  16.1
   #Total cases  429
Information source: Percentages
 Information source 
   Newspaper (printed or online)  17.9
   Social media  11.2
   Friends/family  3.7
   Radio  5.8
   Television  52.0
   Other  6.1
   Do not follow  3.3
   #Total cases  429
Somebody I know tested positive for COVID-19: Percentages
 Tested pos someone I know 
   No  94.6
   Yes  5.4
   #Total cases  429

Compliance with COVID Restrictions

When asked what percentage of the population was complying with government policies regarding social distancing, the average estimate was 60% (SD = 24%; see below figure). When asked if they were complying with Governmental lockdown policies, 66% of participants indicated that they were either completely complying or going beyond policy suggestions. 1% indicated they were not complying at all, while 34% indicated some degree of partial compliance.

Perceived Risk of COVID

We asked participants about the perceived risk COVID-19 poses for themselves and those around them. Responses were made on a likert scale with values:

  1. Not at all,
  2. Slightly,
  3. Somewhat,
  4. Very,
  5. Extremely.

When asked about COVID-19 within the Australian population, participants most frequently reported the virus to be moderate in severity and that the virus posed a ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ harmful risk to their personal health. 96% of participants reported the virus to be at least ‘a little severe’ (2) for the population and at least ‘a little harmful’ (2) to their health.

When asked about their concern over testing positive to COVID-19, responses were skewed and participants reported as being less concerned than during previous assessments. When asked about their concern over someone they know testing positive to COVID-19, participants responses were negatively skewed. This indicates a bias towards concern over others in their community, such as the elderly or nurses and doctors, testing positive to COVID-19. This trend has remained stable across our three waves of data collection. A strong correlation was observed between concern for others and concern for self (r = .8), and between risk of personal harm and concern for self (r = .64).

Finally, we asked participants to report their estimates on the number of fatalities across a range of countries with moderate-to-high media coverage in Australia. Responses were made on a sliding scale ranging from 0 - 50,000; results are reported in estimated deaths per 1000 (see violin plot).

The COVIDSafe App

COVIDSafe - App Perception

The Australian Government has recently released the COVIDSafe smartphone app to trace the spread of COVID-19. We asked participants to assess their understanding of the COVIDSafe app, before presenting them a factual description of the app.

We asked participants who had access to the data collected by COVIDSafe. Participants could choose from one-or-more of the following options: - Me - Contact tracers working for the Australian Government’s Health Department - Other Government Employees who are not contract tracers - The public - Scientists / Researchers - I don’t know

When asked who had access to the data collected by COVIDSafe, 51% correctly reported only “contact tracers working for the health department”. Of the remaining responses, 17% indicated they did not know and 6% indicated the public had access to the data. All remaining responses were a combination of options, each representing less than 3% of the sample exept for the combinations of ‘scientitsts’ and ‘government employees who are not contact tracers’ 6%, and “contact tracers” and “me” 3%.

When asked what technology does the COVIDSafe smartphone app use, 45% of participants responded Bluetooth, 30% responded Location data, 4% responded Mobile phone tower, and 21% responded that they did not know. In a later section of the survey, we ask if participants have downloaded the COVIDSafe app - we will now report the same results broken down by those who have and have not downloaded the app.

Of the 429 participants, 45% did download the COVIDSafe app. Of these participants, 58% reported that the app uses Bluetooth, 25% location data, 7% mobile network data, and 10% reported that they did not know.

Of the 429 participants, 55% did not download the COVIDSafe app. Of these participants, 34% reported that the app uses Bluetooth, 34% location data, 3% mobile network data, and 30% reported they did not know.

COVIDSafe - App Description

Participants were provided the following description of the COVIDSafe app before they proceeded to answer the remaining survey questions.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly become a worldwide threat. Containing the virus’ spread is essential to minimise the impact on the healthcare system, the economy, and save many lives. The Australian Government has recently released the COVIDSafe smartphone app to help identify and contact those who may have been exposed to people with COVID-19. The use of this app is completely voluntary, but the government has explicitly stated that easing social distancing restrictions depends at least in part on the degree of community uptake of this voluntary app. This is because, the more people that download and use this app the more effectively it will help to contain the spread of COVID-19. The app works with bluetooth and no location data is collected: when two people are near each other, their phones connect and keep a record of all these connections. If a person is later identified as being infected, that person may voluntarily upload their bluetooth contacts to a secure server accessible only to the Health Department of the Australian Government. This data would only be used by the Health Department of the Australian Government to contact those who might have been exposed to COVID-19.

COVIDSafe - The Current Effective Use

45% of participants downloaded the COVIDSafe app, however, downloads do not always translate to effective usage. We examine whether these participants:

  1. Are registered on the app?
    • Yes 85%
    • No 5%
    • Don’t know 10%
  2. Keep the app installed on their phone?
    • Yes 92%
    • No 8%
  3. Keep Bluetooth on?
    • Yes 64%
    • Only when I leave the house 22%
    • No 8%
    • I don’t know 6%
  4. Have the app downloaded, are registered and have bluetooth switched on?
    • Yes 62%
    • Only when I leave the house 23%
    • No 9%
    • I don’t know 6%
  5. Would upload their data if they tested positive to COVID-19?
    • Yes 97%
    • No 3%
  6. Have tried to share the app with others?
    • Yes 55%
    • No 44%
  7. When they downloaded the COVIDSafe app?
    • The day it was released 29%
    • In the week after it was released 57%
    • Any other time 14%
  8. What kind of internal operating system (iOS) their phone uses:
    • Apple 43%
    • Android 50%
    • Other 0.7%
    • Don’t know 0.7%
    • Don’t own a phone 6%
  9. Of those who have downloaded the app on an Apple iOS device, do they leave their phone screen unlocked, Bluetooth on, and COVIDSafe open on the front screen when in public?
    • Yes 45%
    • No 55%

Our findings suggest that up to 85% of COVIDSafe app users are registered & have bluetooth switched on when they leave the house and interact with members of the general public. Under ideal circumstances, this would be equivilant to the rate of effective COVIDSafe usage; however, this is not the case.

The COVIDSafe app on the Apple iOS does not work as intended unless the phone screen is unlocked, Bluetooth is switched on, and the COVIDSafe app is open on the front screen. We asked Apple iOS users if they followed these procedures to calculate a true effective usage rate for COVIDSafe. Our results show that the true rate of effective app usage among COVIDSafe users is 61%.

Although only 1% of our sample have received a COVID-19 diagnosis, 97% indicated they would upload their contact information through COVIDSafe if they were diagnosed with the virus.

55% of COVIDSafe users have tried to share the app with friends and family. The COVIDSafe app has built-in functionality that allows users to share the app with others. Of those who downloaded COVIDSafe, 32% knew of this functionality, 19% have used this to share the app with others, and 61% intend to use this functionality to share the app with others in the future.

COVIDSafe - Reasons for downloading the app

It is important to understand why individuals choose to download and use the COVIDSafe app. Below, we present the results of a rank ordered question set where participants indicated from most-to-least those factors that convinced them to download COVIDSafe. Options included:

  1. To return to normal activities
  2. To protect my health
  3. To protect the health of others
  4. To follow Government recommendations
  5. To help the economy

In general, we observe that participants were most motivated to download the app so as to follow Governmnet policy and return to normal activities, then to protect their health and the health of others. Participants were least motivated by the prospect of helping the economy, with 50% of the sample choose this as their last rank-ordered option.