‘Woke Up Call’: Australian Attitudes to and Perceptions of ‘Wokeness’

As Minister Richard Marles lifts Peter Dutton’s ban on some charity and diversity events in Defence, polling research has revealed most Australians are either unfamiliar with the term ‘woke’, or would describe themselves as ‘woke’.

Key Findings:

  • Of those who described themselves as woke, three in five were major party voters (59%) and more intended to vote for the Coalition than intended to vote for the Greens (24% vs 22%) 
  • Most people either didn’t know what the term means (43%) or described themselves as woke (26%). 
  • Those in regional and rural areas were about as likely to describe themselves as woke as those in metro areas (44% vs 45%)
  • More Australians assign a positive definition to the term woke than a negative one (48% vs 30%)
  • Only 12% of Australians (a) knew what woke meant, (b) wouldn’t describe themselves as woke and (c) chose the negative definition of woke – that of “punishing people who don’t think the ‘right’ things on social justice issues”.
  • The report lists examples of people and organisations that have been described as woke, including the Royal Family, Disney, the Wiggles, Pope Francis, federal and state Liberal MPs and the Tasmanian Liberal Party. The term “woke” was also associated with vegan food, taking action on climate change, using the term “white privilege” and the movement for Australia to become a republic.
  • People who didn’t describe themselves as woke were evenly divided between the positive and negative definitions of woke (37% vs 38%).

“The word woke has been used to describe everything from The Royal Family, Disney, the Wiggles, climate action, vegan food, Pope Francis, federal and state Liberal MPs, and racial justice to how the Tasmanian Liberals arrange their Senate ticket,” said Bill Browne, Director of the Australia Institute’s Democracy & Accountability Program.

“When critics accuse everyone from the Wiggles, the Queen, the Pope, and the Australian cricket team of all being woke, Australians will unsurprisingly wonder what is so bad about being woke, or indeed what actually constitutes ‘wokeness’.

“The approach some commentators and politicians take of accusing everyone they don’t like of being ‘woke’ may be cancel culture finally gone too far.

“Our research shows most Australians are either unfamiliar with the term woke or prefer a positive definition of the word to a negative one,” Mr Browne said.

The Woke Up Call Report is a natural pairing with earlier research in this space ‘Lattes and Chardonnays’ from 2019 which found:

  • Lattes, non-dairy milk, and chardonnay are enjoyed by people of all political persuasions in all parts of the country.
  • Those who drink lattes, non-dairy milk, or chardonnays live overwhelmingly outside of the inner city, either in outer parts of capital cities or outside capital cities.
  • Four in five regular chardonnay drinkers are not in the inner city.
  • Most regular chardonnay drinkers are voters for major parties. This is true of regular drinkers of any alcoholic drink.
  • LNP voters were most likely to drink chardonnay at least once or twice a year. Twice as many regular chardonnay drinkers vote for the LNP as vote for the Greens.

Related research