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Austrian habits For Members

What issues do Austrians care about the most?

Julia Hjelm Jakobsson
Julia Hjelm Jakobsson - [email protected]
What issues do Austrians care about the most?
Healthcare is top priority among Austrian voters. Photo by Stephen Andrews on Unsplash

It is election year, and a new survey reveals which topics Austrians care about the most. Here we tell you what lies closest to their hearts and what does not.

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On October 23rd, Austria's will hold its parliamentary elections for the National Council. This election determines the 183 members of the National Council, which is the primary legislative body in the country.

The election to the National Council takes place every five years and it is the country's most important election. Austrian citizens who are at least 16 years old on election day are entitled to vote.

With the upcoming election in mind, a recent survey conducted by Linz-based Market Institute on behalf of Der Standard, revealed which topics eligible voters in Austria consider the most important, and what actions they are willing to take to see changes taking place.

Better healthcare is top priority

The survey showed that Austrians prioritise improvements in the healthcare system the most. Around 82 percent believe that improving the healthcare system was an important political concern. This belief remains consistent across different age groups and political beliefs. However, the level of interest in healthcare improvements tends to increase with age. 

Concerns surrounding the state of the ountry's healthcare system have mounted in recent years. Austria is currently dealing with a serious staff shortage in the healthcare sector, meaning fewer available medical staff for patients. Additionally, the system faces new challenges arising from changes in doctors preferences and the limited number of contracts for practices with public healthcare funds. Many doctors prefer to work as private sector doctors, known as "Wahlarzt" in German, rather than having contracts with insurance-funded practices, where the doctors are referred to as "Alle Kassenarzt" in German.

In addition to healthcare, Austrians also prioritise a better education system (78 percent), fighting corruption (76 percent), fighting high prices and inflation (75 percent), maintaining neutrality (72 percent), reducing energy costs (70 percent), and better paid jobs (67 percent). Legalising cannabis ranks lowest in importance among respondents, with only 19 percent in favour.

But even if voters highlighted these issues as important, many revealed. they did not want to get involved politically themselves to make things better. Only about 35 percent of those who want to improve healthcare are ready to join efforts such as demonstrating, collecting signatures, or networking with others to make changes happen.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the Austrian healthcare system works

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Niche topics create more motivation for mobilisation

The survey showed the level of public engagement varied depending on the issue.

From the subjects mentioned above, only two - neutrality and energy costs, have the potential to persuade people to get involved in politics. Since those are niched topics they have potential to garner greater public support and engagement.

David Pfarrhofer, political researcher at Market Institute, suggested that niche topics often mobilise members of the public more than broader issues due to their specific focus and great relevance to smaller groups of people.

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Political views influence opinions

Political party connections affect how Austrians view different social issues. While many supporters from different parties agree on protesting against right-wing extremism and supporting rights to free abortion, opinions on other matters such as reducing working hours, improving the military, climate change activism and immigration differ a lot among different political groups.

For example, while half of The Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) and a third of the The Green Party voters (Die Grünen) like the idea of working less, it is not popular among supporters of other parties, especially among those who support the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP).

Another example is that two-thirds of respondents believe that protests against discrimination against women are justified. However, supporters of ÖVP and The Freedom Party (FPÖ) agree less with this statement than the other parties. "This is probably because many of them no longer consider such a disadvantage to exist," says Pfarrhofer.

When it comes to protests against immigration, 84 percent of FPÖ supporters view protests against immigration as justified, meanwhile 52 percent of The Green Party supporters and 40 percent of SPÖ supporters reject such protests.

READ MORE: Healthcare in Austria: Why are there fewer 'public' doctors?

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