Chambers, I., R. Costanza, L. Zingus, S. Cork, M. Hernandez, A. Sofiullah, T. Z. Htwe, D. Kenny, P. Atkins, T. Kasser, I. Kubiszewski, Y. Liao, A. C. Maung, K. Yuan, D. Finnigan, and S. Harte. 2019. A public opinion survey of four future scenarios for Australia in 2050. Futures. 107:119-132


Scenario planning and the use of alternative futures have been used successfully to assist orga-nisations, communities and countries to move towards desired outcomes (Dator, 2009). In thisstudy we used a unique combination of scenario planning and a national public opinion survey toexplore preferred futures for Australia in 2050. The approach used four future scenarios forAustralia in 2050 as the basis for an online national public opinion survey entitledAustralia: OurFuture, Your Voice.Scenario development was based on a review of a broad range of scenarios forAustralia and globally. We then developed four synthesis scenarios based on two axes of in-dividual versus community orientation, and national focus on GDP growth versus a focus on well-being more broadly defined. The scenarios were labelled: (1) Free Enterprise (FE); (2) StrongIndividualism (SI); (3) Coordinated Action (CA); and (4) Community Well-being (CW). We cre-ated a website that described each of these scenarios and invited people to complete a surveyafter they had reviewed the scenarios.The survey engaged 2575 adults in two groups: (1) a targeted statistically representativenational sample (n = 2083) and (2) a self-selected sample (n = 492). Results from both groupsand across all demographic categories revealed that a majority of participants preferred theCommunity Well-being (CW) scenario. 73% (Representative) and 61% (Self Select) ranked thisscenario as 1stor 2nd. We also asked which scenario Australia was headed toward. 32% of theRepresentative sample and 50% of the Self-Selected sample participants ranked the Free En-terprise (FE) scenario as the most likely future. CW was ranked least likely to be‘where Australiais heading?’The dissonance between the future Australians want and where they thought thecountry is headed has clear policy implications, which we discuss.This extension of scenario planning to include public opinion surveys is novel and this ap-proach can be used to improve thinking, discussion, planning and policy about the future ofAustralia, as well as potentially other countries and regions.

Keywords: Australia, Future scenarios, Sustainability, Australia’s future