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Essential Report, 1 December 2015 asked: 'Which party would you trust most to handle the following issues', with 15 issues specified. 31% of respondents indicated that they would most trust the Liberal Party to handle 'treatment of asylum seekers', 16% Labor, 17% Greens, and 36% responded 'don't know'. Those indicating Greens increased by 1 percentage points since this question was asked in February 2015, trust in the Liberal Party's handling of the issue was down 2 percentage points, Labor down 4 percentage points, while those indicating 'don't know' increased by 7 percentage points.

Party trust to handle issues:  treatment of asylum seekers

Date

1 Dec 2015

6 Oct 2015

1 Sept 2015

17 Feb 2015

Liberal

31%

28%

31%

33%

Labor

16%

21%

19%

20%

Greens

17%

17%

19%

18%

Don't know

36%

34%

31%

29%

Newspoll for The Australian, 23 November 2015, asked respondents two questions on Syrian refugees, in the context of a survey on committing ground troops to fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and fear of terrorist attacks in Australia.

First it informed respondents that 'Australia has committed to taking an extra 12,000 refugees from the Syrian conflict on top of the normal humanitarian intake'. It then asked 'should Australia be taking more than 12,000, less than 12,000, or is the figure of 12,000 additional refugees about right?' 22% responded 'more', 27% 'about right', a combined 49%; 44% responded 'fewer', while 7% were uncommitted. 52% of Greens voters indicated 'more', 29% Labor and 14% Coalition.

Second, Newspoll asked 'When deciding which Syrian refugees Australia should accept, should priority be given to Christians or should equal consideration be given to all religious and ethnic groups?' 41% indicated 'priority to Christians', 52% 'equal consideration', and 7% were uncommitted. The highest proportion, 54%, indicating 'priority to Christians', was among Coalition voters, compared to 29% Labor and 17% Greens voters.

Essential Report, 17 November 2015 asked which are the three most important issues in deciding how you would vote at a Federal election?' Of fifteen issues specified, 'treatment of asylum seekers' ranked equal 11th, selected as one of the three most important issues by 8% of respondents; it was selected by 5% of Liberal/ National voters, 7% Labor, and a much higher 36% Greens, amongst whom it was the third ranked issue, behind the 'quality of the health system' and 'addressing climate change'. Amongst all respondents, the top ranked issues were 'management of the economy' (47%), 'Australia's health system' (46%), and 'jobs and protection of local industries' (39%).

Essential Report asked two additional questions on asylum issues. It asked 'Do you think the federal government is too tough or too soft on asylum seekers or is it taking the right approach?'.25% considered that it was 'too tough', 31% that it was 'taking the right approach', and 29% that it was 'too soft'. This was a similar pattern of response to that obtained by four earlier surveys in 2014-2015, with an increase in the proportion indicating 'too soft' from 18% in July 2014 to 29% in November 2015.

Too soft or too tough on asylum seekers

Date

17 Nov 2015

14 April 2015

28 Jan 2015

8 July 2014

5 March 2014

21 Jan 2014

Too tough

25%

22%

26%

27%

25%

22%

Too soft

29%

27%

23%

18%

28%

25%

Taking the right approach

31%

34%

35%

36%

34%

35%

Don't know

15%

17%

16%

18%

13%

18%

The final question asked: 'Do you agree or disagree with the current Government policy of sending people seeking asylum to detention centres of Nauru and Manus Island?' A majority, 54%, indicated agreement, 31% disagreement, while 16% did not know. Agreement was at 73% of Liberal/ National voters, 45% Labor, and 14% Greens.

Essential Report, 15 September 2015 asked four questions on refugees. First, it asked if Australia took 'fewer', 'about the same' or 'more' refugees than 'comparable nations'; 30% responded 'fewer', 22% 'about the same', 30% 'more', and 18% did not know. A majority of Greens (63%) voters responded 'fewer', compared to 35% Labor and 21% Liberal/National.

When asked concerning the number of refugees Australia takes every year, the largest proportion (28%) indicated that they did not know; 21% of respondents indicated 'about 15,000', the closest to the actual number, while 51% indicated other numbers (5,000, 10,000, 25,000, 50,000).

A follow-up question asked half the sample if 'Australia should take in more, or less than we do currently'; 30% responded 'more', 37% 'less', 21% 'about the same', and 11% did not know. The other half of the sample were told the actual annual intake (13,750), with only minor change in the proportions when margin of error is taken into account: 32% responded 'more', 31% 'less', 25% 'about the same', and 13% don't know.

The final question provided respondents with detail on the size of the current refugee intake and the government decision to 'take an additional 12,000 refugees from Syria' for 'permanent settlement'. It then asked, 'Do you think the Federal government should have taken more than 12,000, less than 12,000 or is that about the right amount?' 19% responded 'more', 30% 'about right', a combined 49%, while 36% indicated 'less'. Of those voting Greens, 16% responded 'less', compared to 38% Labor and 39% Liberal.

Essential Report, 4 August 2015 asked 'How important is the asylum seeker issue in deciding which party you will vote for in the Federal election', 7% of respondents indicated that it was 'the most important issue', 29% indicated that it was 'one of the most important issues', 37% that it was 'quite important but not as important as other issues', while 19% indicated that it was 'not very important' or 'not at all important', and 8% that they did not know. Less than 10% of voters, irrespective of party, indicated that it was 'the most important issue', while a relatively high proportion of Greens (38%) and Liberal (35%) voters indicated that it was 'one of the most important issues'. The results were similar to those obtained when this question was asked in June 2013.

Scanlon Foundation Poll, July 2015, considered attitudes to boat arrivals, repeating a question posed in five earlier Scanlon Foundation surveys. A broad range of demographic variables were utilised to analyse responses. For the report of findings, see this site Scanlon Foundation Surveys.

Essential Report, 7 July 2015, asked: 'How would you rate the performance of the Federal Liberal/ National Government in handling …. treatment of asylum seekers?' 32% indicated that it was good, 21% that it was average, while 39% indicated poor and 8% did not know. The rating of 32% good was the second highest of eleven issues considered. The results were almost identical to those obtained when this question was asked in January 2015.

Handling of issues by the Federal Liberal-National Government: treatment of asylum seekers

Date

7 July 2015

28 Jan 2015

16 Sept 2014

25 Feb 2014

Very good/Good

32%

33%

33%

37%

Average

21%

20%

20%

18%

Very poor/Poor

39%

39%

36%

36%

Don't know

8%

8%

11%

9%

Essential Report, 23 June 2015 informed respondents that 'It has been reported that the Australian government had paid "people smugglers" to return asylum seekers to Indonesia.' It then asked: 'Do you approve or disapprove of the Australian government paying "people smugglers" to take asylum seekers back to Indonesia?' A majority, 56% of respondents, indicated that they did not approve, 29% approved, while 15% did not know. Approval (48%) was highest amongst those intending to vote Liberal/ National, compared to a much lower 18% of Labor voters and 14% Greens.

Essential Report, 14 April 2015 repeated three questions asked earlier in January 2014 (see 21 Jan. 2014, below). Questions concerned with the 'genuine' character of 'asylum seekers arriving by boat' and policy towards boat arrivals obtained almost identical results with the earlier survey. Thus only 32% agreed that 'most of them are genuine refugees', 30% in the earlier survey. A third question, asked in six earlier surveys between October 2010 and January 2015, asked if the federal government was 'too tough or too soft on asylum seekers or is it taking the right approach'. A minority, 22%, considered that the government was 'too tough'; this compares with 27% in July 2014, 25% in March 2014, and 22% in January 2014. The proportion agreeing that the government was 'too tough' has increased since the question was first surveyed (7% in October 2010, 12% in July 2012) – in the context of changed policy – but it has consistently remained a minority viewpoint. In April 2014, 67% of Greens voters agreed that the government was too tough, 31% Labor, and 6% Liberal/ National.

Essential Report, 17 March 2015 asked 'How concerned are you that Australia has been criticised by the United Nations for failing to meet its international human rights obligations in the treatment of asylum seekers?' 44% of respondents indicated that they were concerned (21% 'very concerned'), 48% were not concerned (29% 'not at all concerned'). Those most likely to be concerned were Greens (83%) and Labor voters (59%). Less than one in four (23%) Liberal voters indicated concern. Concern was indicated by a majority of respondents aged 18-34 (56%) and a small majority (52%) of those with university education.

ANU Poll, March 2015 (Report No. 18, April 2015) asked respondents to indicate agreement or disagreement with the proposition that 'Australia should take stronger measures to exclude illegal immigrants'. The term 'illegal immigrants' was not defined, although in the context of current political discussion it can be assumed that many, perhaps a large majority, would see the question as referring to asylum seekers arriving by boat. 65% agreed (38% strongly agree), 32% disagreed (11% strongly disagree).

Essential Report, 17 February 2015 asked: 'Which party would you trust most to handle the following issues', with 15 issues specified. 33% of respondents indicated that they would most trust the Liberal Party to handle 'treatment of asylum seekers', 20% Labor, 18% Greens, and 29% responded 'don't know'. Those indicating Greens increased by 4 percentage points since this question was asked in June 2014, trust in the Liberal Party's handling of the issue was down 4 percentage points.

Essential Report, 18 November 2014 asked four questions on refugee issues. First it asked respondents 'how many refugees do you think Australia takes in every year', without explaining the difference between 'refugees' and 'asylum seekers', nor the variation from year to year. There were six response options, with the largest proportion (31%) indicating that they did not know; five substantive response options were provided: 'about 5,000', 'about 10,000', 'about 15,000', 'about 25,000', 'about 50,000'. Given the ambiguity of the question, it is difficult to know the correct answer. The proportion of respondents selecting a numerical option ranged from 10% ('about 5,000') to 19% ('about 25,000').

A second question asked for comparison of the Australian intake with 'comparable nations'. There were four response options, with the spread of responses again indicating lack of clear understanding: 32% indicated that Australia 'takes in fewer refugees', 20% 'about the same number', 25% 'more refugees', and 23% 'don't know'.

A third question asked for comparison of the refugee and skilled immigrant intake – and provided further evidence of lack of factual understanding: 32% indicated that they did not know and almost the same proportion, 31%, that 'Australia takes in more refugees than skilled migrants; 12% indicated that Australia took 'about the same number' of refugees and skilled immigrants. These responses were factually incorrect. In each of the last ten years the intake of skilled migrants has by a substantial margin exceeded the refugee (and asylum) intake – just 25% of respondents indicated this answer.

A fourth question presented respondents with four complex propositions, which made it difficult to determine which part of the proposition elicited agreement or disagreement: for example, when presented with the proposition that 'Australia's overall population is too low and we need to increase the number of refugees to boost the numbers in our workforce', 20% agreed while 62% disagreed; in response to the proposition that 'accepting refugees is something a wealthy nation like Australia should do to support poorer nations' 49% agreed and 36% disagreed.

Essential Report, 7 October 2014 asked respondents to indicate approval or disapproval of 12 specified 'decisions the Federal Government has made over the last twelve months'. The highest level of approval was for 'turning back asylum seeker boats', approved by 61% of respondents and disapproved by 30%. 'Strong approval' was indicated by 37%, 'strong disapproval' by 15%.

Scanlon Foundation Poll, July 2014, considered attitudes to boat arrivals, repeating a question posed in four earlier Scanlon Foundation surveys. A broad range of demographic variables were utilised to analyse responses. For the report of findings, see this site Scanlon Foundation Surveys.

Essential Report, 8 July 2014, asked: 'How would you rate the performance of the Federal Liberal/ National Government in handling the issue of asylum seekers arriving by boat?' 41% indicated 'good', 18% 'neither good nor poor', 35% 'poor'. Among Liberal/National voters, 76% rated the performance as 'good', 14% 'neither good nor poor', and 7% 'poor'. This question was previously asked in March and the result represented a marginal increase is the proportion rating the performance as good (up from 39% to 41%), while the proportion rating poor declined (from 38% to 35%).

A second question asked: 'Do you think the Federal Liberal/ National Government is too tough or too soft on asylum seekers or is it taking the right approach?' 27% responded 'too tough' (compared to 25% in March), 36% 'taking the right approach' (34% in March), 18% 'too soft' (a much higher 28% in March), and 18% 'don't know' (13% in March). The 'too tough' option was indicated by 71% Greens voters, 46% Labor, and 5% Liberal/ National. 'Taking the right approach was indicated by 7% Greens voters, 19% Labor, and 65% Liberal/ National.

Essential Report, 3 June 2014, asked: 'Which party would you trust most to handle the following issues', with 15 issues specified. 37% of respondents indicated that they would most trust the Liberal Party to handle 'treatment of asylum seekers', 20% Labor, 14% Greens, and 29% responded 'don't know', a result almost identical to that obtained when the question was asked in February.

Essential Report, 27 May 2014, asked: 'Would you support or oppose an agreement with Cambodia to resettle refugees arriving in Australia by boat?' 37% indicated support (combined 'strongly support' and 'support), 39% opposition (combined 'strongly oppose' and 'oppose') , 24% did not know. The level of 'strong support' was 11%, 'strong opposition 21%. Support was indicated by a relatively low 46% of those voting Liberal/National, 31% Labor and 23% Greens.

Essential Report, 20 May 2014, asked: 'Do you support or oppose the following decisions that were made in the latest Federal Budget'. Ten decisions were specified, including: 'Asylum seekers who arrived by boat will lose the right to have their cases independently reviewed or to have family reunions'. 48% of respondents indicated support, 27% opposition, 19% neither support nor oppose, and 5% did not know. Support was indicated by 71% of those voting Liberal/National, 36% Labor and 22% Greens.

Essential Report, 22 April 2014 asked 'Which are the three most important issues in deciding how you would vote at a Federal election'. Of 15 specified issues, 'treatment of asylum seekers' ranked fourteenth, selected by 8% of respondents as one of their three most important issues.

Newspoll for The Australian, 7 March 2014, asked respondents to rank eleven political issues as 'very important, fairly important or not important for how you would vote in a federal election'. 'Health and Medicare' came first, ranked 'very important' by 81%, 'asylum-seeker arrivals' came eighth, ranked 'very important' by 47% (down from 52% in August 2013). When asked which party would best handle 'asylum seekers arriving in Australia', 43% indicated Liberal/National Coalition, 19% Labor, 19% someone else, 5% none and 14% were uncommitted.

Essential Report, 4 March 2014, asked: 'In which of the following areas should the Government reduce spending?', with 15 areas specified. The top selections were 'foreign aid' (79%) and 'the arts' (70%). 'Border security' ranked ninth, selected by 23% of respondents, by 12% of Liberal/National voters, 33% Labor and 60% Greens.

Respondents were then asked: 'How would you rate the performance of the Federal Liberal/ National Government in handling the issue of asylum seekers arriving by boat?' 39% indicated 'good', 18% 'neither good nor poor', 38% 'poor'; of Liberal/National voters, 72% rated the performance as 'good', 14% 'neither good nor poor', and 10% 'poor'.

A third question asked: 'Do you think the Federal Liberal/ National Government is too tough or too soft on asylum seekers or is it taking the right approach?'  25% responded 'too tough', 34% 'taking the right approach', 28% 'too soft', and 13% 'don't know'. The 'too tough' option was indicated by 79% Greens voters, 37% Labor, and 6% Liberal/ National. 'Taking the right approach was indicated by 4% Greens voters, 16% Labor, and 60% Liberal/ National.

A fourth questions asked 'Do you approve or disapprove of the performance of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison in handling the issue of asylum seekers?' Responses were evenly divided: 39% approve, 39% disapprove, 22% 'don't know'. The Minister's performance was approved by 72% Liberal/National voters, 18% Labor, and 7% Greens.

Best party to handle asylum issues

[1] 'Which party has the best policy for handling the issue of asylum seekers arriving by boat?' [2] 'Who do you think would best handle the issue of asylum-seekers arriving in Australia?' [3] 'Which party would you trust most to handle the following issues ....?' 'Treatment of asylum seekers.' [4] 'Which political party do you think would best handle the issue of asylum seekers arriving in Australia?'

Date

3 June 2014

7 March 2014

11 Feb 2014

19 Nov 2013

2 Sept 2013

Survey

EssR

NewsP

EssR

EssR

EssR

Question wording

[3]

[2]

[3]

[3]

[3]

Labor

20%

19%

20%

17%

23%

Liberal/National

37%

43%

36%

35%

36%

Greens

14%


15%

13%

16%

Someone else


19%




None


5%




Don't know

29%

14%

29%

34%

26%

Key: EssR – Essential Report; NewsP – Newspoll for The Australian

Lowy Institute survey on opinion on foreign policy, February 2014, asked six questions on asylum issues. Respondents were asked to rank a list of twelve possible threats to Australia's vital interests in the next ten years. 'International terrorism' was ranked first (selected by 65%), followed by 'the possibility of unfriendly countries becoming nuclear powers' (64%). 'Asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat' was ranked fifth, selected as a 'critical threat' by 48% of respondents.

Later in the survey, respondents were presented with five statements on asylum seeker policy, with the wording of some statements raising the potential of confusing respondents. In the strongest finding, 71% agreed that 'the government should turn back boats when it is safe to do so', 28% disagreed; 59% agreed that 'asylum seekers should be processed offshore … before deciding whether they should be settled in Australia', but a lower proportion, 51% disagreed when presented with the proposition that 'all asylum seekers should be processed in Australia whether or not they come by boat'; 42% agreed that 'no asylum seeker coming to Australia by boat should be allowed to settle in Australia', 57% disagreed.

Essential Report, 25 February 2014, asked: 'How would you rate the Federal Liberal/ National Government for the way they have handled the following issues?' Eleven issues were specified, including 'Treatment of asylum seekers'. Opinion was evenly divided between those indicating 'good' (37%) and 'poor' (36%).

Essential Report, 11 February 2014, asked 'Which of these .... issues are you personally most concerned about?', with economic issues first specified, then 'other issues'. The six 'other issues' included 'border security', which was ranked equal first, together with 'climate change', selected by 21% of respondents. Amongst Liberal/National voters it ranked a clear first, selected by 36%, compared to 11% of Labor voters who selected it first and 6% Greens. Essential Research also repeated a question asked on five occasions in 2013, 'Which party would you trust most to handle the following issues', with 15 issues specified.  36% of respondents indicated that they would most trust the Liberal Party to handle 'treatment of asylum seekers', 20% Labor, 15% Greens, and 29% responded 'don't know'. This result was similar to those obtained in 2013. Thus the five earlier polls found trust in the Liberal Party to handle the asylum issue in the range 33%-39%, for Labor in the range 17%-23%, and Greens in the range 12%-16%.

Essential Report, 21 January 2014 asked three questions on the asylum issue. First, it asked, 'As far as you know, are most asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat genuine refugees or are most of them not genuine refugees?' The largest proportion, 47%, indicated that 'most of them are not genuine refugees' (59% Liberal/ National, 39% Labour, 18% Greens); 30% indicated 'most of them are genuine refugees' (18% Liberal/ National, 41% Labour, 67% Greens); 23% responded 'don't know'.  58% of those who had not completed secondary education considered that the asylum seekers were 'not genuine'.

A second question asked 'Do you think the Federal Liberal/ National Government is too tough or too soft on asylum seekers or is it taking the right approach?' 35% responded 'taking the right approach', while 25% considered that the government was 'too soft', a combined 60%. 22% responded that the government was 'too tough', comprising just 3% Liberal/National voters, 37% Labor and 68% Greens. 18% of respondents indicated 'don't know'.

A third question on the treatment of asylum seekers asked which policy option 'comes closest to your view?', presenting four options in an approach similar to the Scanlon Foundation surveying. All four options presented the case that asylum seekers had been found to be 'genuine refugees', with 46% indicating that in such a case they 'should be allowed to stay in Australia', compared to 26% who indicated that even if genuine they should be 'sent back to the country they came from' and 15% that they should be 'resettled in another country'. The limitation of this approach is that the previous question had found that 47% of respondents were of the view that 'most of them are not genuine refugees'. Just 3% agreed that asylum seekers arriving by boat 'should be allowed to stay in Australia whether they are genuine refugees or not.'

Essential Report, 19 November 2013 asked 'How would you rate the performance of the Federal Government in handling the issue of asylum seekers arriving by boat?' 40% responded poor (11% Liberal/ National, 63% Labor, 82% Greens), 28% good, (56% Liberal/ National, 8% Labor, 5% Greens); a further 27% indicated 'neither good nor poor' and 6% did not know.

A second question asked 'Which party would you trust most to handle the following issues', with 15 issues specified.  35% of respondents indicated that they would most trust the Liberal Party to handle 'treatment of asylum seekers', 17% Labor, 13% Greens, and 34% responded 'don't know'.

Essential Report, 1 October 2013 informed respondents that 'under previous Governments the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service has issued statements whenever an asylum-seeker boat arrived. Do you approve or disapprove of the Abbott Government's decision to stop providing this information about the arrival of asylum-seeker boats?' 39% approved (67% Liberal/National, 16% Labor, 13% Greens), while a larger proportion, 48%, disapproved (21% Liberal/National, 75% Labor, 74% Greens). A relatively low 13% indicated 'don't know'.

Essential Report, 2 September 2013 asked 'which party would you trust most to handle the following issues?' with 15 issues specified.  36% of respondents indicated that they would most trust the Liberal Party to handle 'treatment of asylum seekers', 23% Labor, 16% Greens, and 26% responded 'don't know'.

A second question asked 'Which of these .... issues are you personally most concerned about?', with economic issues first specified, then 'other issues'. The six 'other issues' included 'border security', which was ranked a clear first, selected by 30% of respondents, ahead of 'treatment of the aged' selected by 17% and climate change, selected by 16%. Amongst Liberal/National voters, 'border security' was selected by 48%, compared to 20% of Labor voters who selected it first and 5% Greens.

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Essential Report, 5 August 2013 considered differences between perceptions of parties by focusing on party leaders. 15 issues were specified and respondents were asked 'which party leader – Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott – would you trust most to handle the following issues'. In response to 'treatment of asylum seekers', 26% indicated Kevin Rudd, 31% Tony Abbott, 32% indicated 'no difference' and 11% 'don't know'.

Respondents were then asked if they considered that the approaches of Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott to 'handling asylum seekers is too harsh, too soft or about right'. 20% considered that the approach of Kevin Rudd was 'too harsh', almost the same proportion (21%) when Tony Abbott was considered; 24% considered that Kevin Rudd's approach was 'too soft' and 40% that it was 'about right', compared to 20% and 31% for Tony Abbott. There was a marked difference in the 'don't know' category, with 16% indicating 'don't know' for Kevin Rudd, 27% for Tony Abbott.

Scanlon Foundation Poll, July 2013, considered attitudes to boat arrivals, repeating a question posed in three earlier Scanlon Foundation surveys. A broad range of demographic variables were utilised to analyse responses. For the report of findings, see this site Scanlon Foundation Surveys.

Essential Report, 29 July 2013 asked three questions on asylum seeker policy. Respondents were first asked: 'Do you approve of the announcement by the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, that all asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat will be sent to New Guinea for processing and none will be resettled in Australia? 61% approved, 28% disapproved and 11% did not know. The level of 'strong' approval was 30%, 'strong' disapproval 14%. Approval was at 75% of Labor voters, 58% Liberal/National and 32% Greens. Secondly, respondents were asked 'Which party has the best policy for handling the issue of asylum seekers arriving by boat?' 25% indicated Labor, 26% Liberal, 6% Greens, 28% 'none of them', and 15% 'don't know'. Third, respondents were asked 'How important is the asylum seeker issue in deciding which party you will vote for in the Federal election?' 7% indicated it was 'the most important issue', 28% that it was 'one of the most important issues'. 6% of Labor voters indicated that it was 'the most important issue', 8% Liberal/National and 4% Greens.

Best party to handle asylum issues

[1] 'Which party has the best policy for handling the issue of asylum seekers arriving by boat?' [2] 'Who do you think would best handle the issue of asylum-seekers arriving in Australia?' [3] 'Which party would you trust most to handle the following issues ….?' 'Treatment of asylum seekers.' [4] 'Which political party do you think would best handle the issue of asylum seekers arriving in Australia?' [5] 'Now about the Australian federal election which will be held on the 14th September this year. Which party, either the Labor Party or the Liberal-National Coalition, do you personally think would do a better job of ... handling the arrival of asylum seekers by boat?' 

Date

29 Jul 2013

23 Jul 2013

23 Jul 2013

17 Jun 2013

March 2013

11 Feb 2013

19 Nov 2012

18 Jun 2012

Jul 2012

5 Dec 2011

6 Jun 2011

11 Oct 2010

Survey

EssR

NewsP

EssR

EssR

Lowy

EssR

EssR

EssR

NewsP

EssR

EssR

EssR

Question wording

[1]

[2]

[3]

[3]

[5]

[3]

[3]

[3]

[4]

[3]

[3]

[3]

Labor

25%

26%

22%

17%

25%

20%

20%

16%

17%

17%

19%

26%

Liberal/ National

26%

33%

33%

39%

57%

37%

38%

36%

37%

36%

39%

33%

Greens

6%


13%

12%


14%

13%

13%

7%

12%

11%

9%

Someone else


12%







6%




None

28%

10%



11%




12%




Don't know

15%

19%

31%

32%

6%

30%

29%

36%

21%

35%

31%

33%

Key: EssR – Essential Report; NewsP – Newspoll for The Australian; The Lowy Institute Poll

Attitudes to election issues: treatmentof asylum seekers

'Which are the three most important issues in deciding how you would vote at a Federal election ....?' 'Treatment of asylum seekers'. (Source: Essential Report)

23 Jul 2013

17 Jun 2013

11 Feb 2013

19 Nov 2012

30 Jul 2012

5 Dec 2011

6 Jun 2011

14%

11%

6%

6%

10%

8%

5%

Galaxy poll conducted for the Australian Greens, full details (date, wording of questions, context, areas sampled) not released. A brief report in The Age/ Sydney Morning Herald (31 July) noted that 'almost 50 per cent of voters did not trust either Labor or the Liberals 'to put caring for refugees before political interest.' The same proportion did not trust either of the major parties to 'handle refugees with care.' A brief reference on the Australian Greens internet site reported that '48 per cent of Australians don't trust Labor or the Coalition to care for refugees ahead of political interests, while 20 per cent remain undecided.' The reports did not indicate the wording or context of the questions, full range of responses, or sample size. The Sunday Age (4 August) reported a Galaxy poll for the Australian Greens conducted in 'July 2013' in the federal electorate of Melbourne which found that 62% of respondents were opposed to 'Labor's new refugee policy', 29% in favour and 8% uncommitted. The sample was small (400) and the margin of error was not indicated.

Galaxy poll, reported 28 July 2013(ABC). Respondents rated Kevin Rudd marginally better than Tony Abbott at handling the asylum issue, 40% to 38%.

Essential Report, 23 July 2013 asked 'Which are the three most important issues in deciding how you would vote at a Federal election'. Of 15 specified issues, ''treatment of asylum seekers' ranked equal eighth, selected by 14% of respondents as first, second or third rank. Respondents were then asked, 'Which party would you trust most to handle the following issues', with 15 issues specified.  33% of respondents indicated that they would most trust the Liberal Party for 'treatment of asylum seekers', 22% Labor, 13% Greens, and 31% responded 'don't know'.

Newspoll for The Australian, 23 July 2013, asked respondents 'Who do you think would best handle the issue of asylum-seekers arriving in Australia?' 33% indicated Liberal/National Coalition (down from 47% in February), 26% Labor (20% in February), 12% someone else, 10% none and 19% were uncommitted.

Fairfax Nielsen poll, 15-16 July 2013 asked which of the major parties 'would be best for handling asylum seekers?' Prior to the 2010 election, Nielsen found that 42% supported Labor to handle the asylum issue and 44% the Coalition. In July 2013 34% supported Labor (down 8%) and 54% the Coalition (up 10%). The 'don't know' response was 13%.

A second question informed respondents that 'Many asylum seekers are released into the community before their claims are processed' and then asked: 'Do you support or oppose allowing these asylum seekers to work in paid employment until their claims are decided?' A majority, 51%, were opposed, 45% were in support and 4% did not know. The 51% opposed were then informed: 'The alternative to working in paid employment is that these asylum seekers are supported by the government, charities and community groups' and were then further asked if they preferred the option of allowing these asylum seekers to work in paid employment or receive support from government, charities and community groups. 49% indicated opposition to paid employment, a relatively high 16% did not know and 35% were in agreement.

In presenting this finding the Age/SMH headlined '63% of voters support right for asylum seekers to work' (16 July). The 63% result was obtained by adding the 45% in support to the first question to the 35% (of 51%) in agreement with the second question. The headline and the accompanying report was arguably misleading for three reasons: first, other polling has indicated that a substantial proportion of the electorate is opposed to release of asylum seekers from detention pending determination of their claims; this segment of opinion was not included in the equation (or sequence of questions); second, 51% directly indicated that they were opposed to the right of asylum seekers to work pending determination of their claims; third, various interpretations can be placed on the response to the follow-up question (and to this approach to determining public opinion). Indicative of the potential for confusion, the Age/ SMH incorrectly reported the sequence of questions in its break-out box summarising the finding, stating that the follow-up question was asked of those who supported paid employment, whereas it was asked of those who opposed it.

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Essential Report, 8 July 2013 asked an ambiguously worded question on asylum: 'Under Kevin Rudd's leadership, do you think the Labor Party should dump, change or keep their policies on the following issues?' Six issues were specified, with the lowest proportion, at just 10%, favouring retention of policy on 'handling of asylum seekers'; this compared with 25% for keeping the carbon tax, 44% Gonski education reforms and 59% 'the NIDS'.  21% supported the 'dumping' of asylum policy, 51% supported change and 17% indicated 'don't know'. The difference in meaning between a policy to 'dump' and to 'change' was not indicated and may have confused some respondents. Among Labor voters, 56% supported changing policy on asylum, with the proportion indicating 'dump' not reported.

Essential Report, 17 June 2013 asked 'Which are the three most important issues in deciding how you would vote at a Federal election'. Of 15 specified issues, 'treatment of asylum seekers' ranked equal ninth, selected as one of their most important issues by 11% of respondents, up from 6% in February. Respondents were then asked, 'Which party would you trust most to handle the following issues', with 15 issues specified. 39% of respondents indicated that they would most trust the Liberal Party to handle asylum, 17% Labor, 12% Greens, and a very large proportion, 32% responded 'Don't know'. The same questions were then asked individually. Respondents were asked 'How important is the asylum seeker issue in deciding which party you will vote for in the Federal election', 6% of respondents indicated that it was 'the most important issue', while 28% indicated that it was 'one of the most important issues'. Thus in response to the question in the context of 15 other issues, 11% of respondents rated asylum issues as a top three issue, asked in isolation 34% indicated that it was 'most important' or 'one of the most important issues'. When the question of party preference for dealing with asylum was asked in isolation there was less difference in the pattern of response: 38% indicated Liberal, compared with 39% when presented in the context of 15 different issues. Support for Labor and Greens handling of asylum was lower, at 13% and 7% respectively. 31% of respondents indicated 'none of them' and 11% 'don't know'.

Lowy Poll, March 2013, asked five questions on asylum issues. In response to the question 'Are you concerned or not concerned about unauthorised asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat …' 51% of respondents were very concerned and 23% somewhat concerned a total of 74% concerned. The same question was asked by the Lowy Poll on three earlier occasions (2009-11). While there has been little change in the proportion who indicate concern (in the range 72%-78% across the four surveys), those indicating they were 'very concerned' rose from 43% in 2009 to 52% in 2010 and has remained at that level. A clear majority (58%) favoured of 'offshore processing of unauthorised asylum seekers' (35% against), a similar proportion (57%) to those who considered that the Liberal-National Coalition 'would do a better job of handling the arrival of asylum seekers' than Labor (25%). When presented with the statement that 'Indonesia helps Australia combat people smuggling', 30% agreed, 61% disagreed. When asked concerning the 'amount of attention being paid to the asylum seeker issue', 54% considered that the media paid 'too much attention' (17% too little attention), compared with 39% who considered that politicians paid 'too much attention' (37% 'too little').

Fairfax Nielsen poll, 19 March 2013, asked for views on a policy that requires police and neighbours to be informed 'when asylum seekers are to be housed in an area'. 60% supported informing police, 36% opposed, 4% did not know; a lower 48% supported informing neighbours, 48% opposed, 3% did not know. Support was markedly higher amongst Coalition voters: 72% supported informing police, compared to 51% Labor and 26% Greens; 59% of Coalition voters supported informing neighbours, 39% Labor 15% Greens.

Essential Report, 11 March 2013:  see under Immigration, ranking of immigration and population issues.

Essential Report, 11 February 2013 asked 'Which are the three most important issues in deciding how you would vote at a Federal election'. Of 15 specified issues, 'Treatment of asylum seekers' ranked equal last, selected by 6% of respondents as first, second or third rank. Respondents were then asked, 'Which party would you trust most to handle the following issues', with 15 issues specified. 37% of respondents indicated that they would most trust the Liberal Party to handle 'Treatment of asylum seekers', 20% Labor, 14% Greens, and 30% responded 'Don't know'.

There were a number of surveys in 2012 on asylum issues, particularly during June-July, in the context of record boat arrivals and loss of life at sea. For a review of survey findings see Andrew Markus, 'What does the Australian public really think about asylum seekers?', The Conversation, 30 July 2012, at http://theconversation.edu.au/what-does-the-australian-public-really-think-about-asylum-seekers-8522.

Newspoll for The Australian, February 2013, asked respondents to rank ten political issues as 'very important, fairly important or not important for how you would vote in a federal election'. 'Health and Medicare' came first, ranked 'very important' by 80%, 'asylum- seeker arrivals' came seventh, ranked 'very important' by 48%. When asked which party would best handle 'asylum seekers arriving in Australia', 47% indicated Liberal/National Coalition, 20% Labor, 12% someone else, 6% none and 15% were uncommitted.

Newspoll for The Australian, 29 November 2012, asked one question on asylum. In response to the question 'Which party do you think would best handle the issue of asylum-seekers arriving in Australia?', 36% indicated Liberal/National Coalition, 18% Labor, 13% someone else, 11% none and 22% were uncommitted. This result is almost identical to that obtained in July 2012, despite a significant change in government policy. Comparing the results to those obtained in August 2010, at the time of the last federal election, support for the two major parties has dropped from a combined 72% to 54%. The 'someone else' category, which includes the Greens, increased from 8% in August 2010 to 13%, but the increase in support occurred between Newspoll surveys conducted in August 2010 and September 2011. The proportion indicating 'someone else' was 13% in September 2011, the same as in November 2012. Amongst coalition supporters a large majority (69%) consider that the Coalition would best handle the asylum issue, compared to a minority (42%) of Labor supporters who consider that Labor would best handle the issue.

Essential Report, 19 November 2012 asked 'Which are the three most important issues in deciding how you would vote at a Federal election'. Of 15 specified issues, 'Treatment of asylum seekers' ranked equal last, selected as the first rank issue by 1% of respondents. A total of 6% of respondents ranked the issue first, second or third. Respondents were then asked, 'Which party would you trust most to handle the following issues', with 15 issues specified.  38% of respondents indicated that they would most trust the Liberal Party to handle 'Treatment of asylum seekers', 20% Labor, 13% Greens, and 29% 'Don't know'.

Nielsen, Age/Sydney Morning Herald, 26 August 2012 asked two questions on government policy. First, respondents were asked 'Do you support or oppose the decision to resume offshore processing of asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea and Nauru'; 67% indicated support (the same as the result obtained by the Essential report survey released on 20 August), 27% opposition. Support was indicated by 59% of ALP, 81% of Coalition and 40% of Greens supporters; the decision was opposed by 33% of ALP, 16% of Coalition and 53% of Greens supporters. In response to the second question, which asked for views on 'the decision to increase the number of refugees Australia accepts from 13,750 to 20,000 per year', opinion was divided: 48% in support, 49% in opposition. The decision was opposed by 39% of ALP, 61% of Coalition and 22% of Greens supporters.

Essential Report, 20 August 2012 asked ten linked questions on asylum policy. First respondents were told that the government's expert panel had 'made a number of recommendations' and asked for views on specific recommendations. 'Reopening detention facilities in Nauru and Manus Islands' was supported by 67% of respondents, opposed by 18%. The highest level of support (72%) was for 'limiting the ways refugees who have arrived by boat can bring their families to Australia', with lowest levels for expanding the humanitarian program to 20,000 places per year (42%) and pursuing a people swap deal with Malaysia as the basis for a regional solution' (30%). A high proportion (66%) if respondents indicated willingness to 'consider turning back boats in the future … if special conditions are met'. Almost half of respondents (47%) approved offshore detention of boat arrivals 'for several years'. Respondents were informed that the Government and Opposition had agreed to implement all recommendations of the expert panel. A majority of respondents (62%) approved the decision. Those most likely to approve were men (68%), those aged 55 or above (75%) and those on incomes under $600 per week (70%). When asked concerning the effectiveness of the policy Essential Research employed an uneven response frame (three 'effective' options, one 'not effective', and 'don't know'), an approach which runs the risk of skewing results. Just 12% of respondents considered that the policy would be 'very effective', 19% 'quite effective', 34% 'a little effective' and 24% 'not effective'.

Scanlon Foundation Poll, July 2012, considered perceptions of reason asylum seekers try to reach Australia by boat, attitudes to boat arrivals and the Humanitarian program, and level of satisfaction with government handling of the asylum issue. For the report of findings, see this site Scanlon Foundation Surveys .

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Question: Which political party do you think would best handle the issue of asylum seekers arriving in Australia?

Survey

Newspoll for The Australian

Newspoll for The Australian

Newspoll for The Australian

Newspoll for The Australian

Newspoll for The Australian

Date

November 2012

July 2012

February 2012

October 2011

September 2011

Liberal/National Coalition

36%

37%

47%

44%

38%

Labor

18%

17%

21%

17%

12%

Someone else

13%

13% (7% Greens)

12%

14%

13%

None

11%

12%

7%

9%

12%

Uncommitted

22%

21%

13%

16%

25%

Essential Report, 30 July 2012 asked 'Which are the three most important issues in deciding how you would vote at a Federal election'. Of 15 specified issues, 'Treatment of asylum seekers' ranked second last of fifteen issues, selected as the first rank issue by 3% of respondents.

Newspoll for The Australian, 11 July 2012, asked three questions on asylum. In response to the question 'Who do you think would best handle the issue of asylum-seekers arriving in Australia?', 37% indicated Liberal/National Coalition, 17% Labor, 7% Greens, 6% another party, 12% none and 21% were uncommitted. In response to the multiple response option questions 'Which of the following parties do you think are at least partly to blame or not to blame for the recent deadlock in parliament regarding the asylum-seekers legislation?', 66% indicated Labor, 60% Liberal/National Coalition and 57% Greens. When asked to specify the party most to blame, 32% indicated Labor, 28% Liberal/National Coalition, 16% Greens and 24% were uncommitted.

Essential Report, 9 July 2012 asked three questions on asylum. When asked 'Do you think the current debate over handling of asylum seekers shows that Australian politicians are genuinely concerned about the welfare of asylum seekers or are they just playing politics over the issue?', 78% 'just playing politics', 11% indicated 'genuinely concerned' and 11% 'don't know'. 'Just playing politics' was selected by 74% Labor voters, 81% Liberal/National, and 85% Greens. Respondents were then asked 'Which party do you think is most concerned about finding a fair and reasonable solution to how Australia handles asylum seekers?' 32% indicated 'none of them', 28% Liberal, 14% Labor, 13% Greens and 13% 'don't know'. The final question asked 'Do you think the Federal Labor Government is too tough or too soft on asylum seekers or is it taking the right approach?' 60% indicated 'too soft' (82% Liberal/National, 42% Labor, 30% Greens), 12% 'too tough', 11% 'right approach', and 17% 'don't know'.

Essential Report, 2 July 2012 asked 'Thinking about handling the issue of asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat, which approach do you favour?'.  There were three specific policies specified, with proportions in agreement noted in brackets: 'The Labor policy of offshore processing in Malaysia' (18%), 'The Liberal policy of offshore processing in Nauru' (35%), 'The Greens policy of onshore processing in Australia' (14%), 'None of the above' (16%) and 'don't know' (16%). Respondents were then informed that the Government had offered to negotiate with 'Tony Abbott and the Liberals to reach a compromise solution for handling asylum seekers. Tony Abbott has refused to negotiate and says the Government should adopt the Liberal policy', and asked: 'Do you think the Government and the Opposition should negotiate a solution or should the Government adopt the Liberal policy?' 57% indicated support for negotiation, (86% Labor, 34% Liberal/National, 85% Greens), 26% supported adoption of Liberal policy and 17% did not know.

Nielsen, Age/Sydney Morning Herald, 2 July 2012 asked 'Do you support or oppose the major parties working together to find a compromise policy on asylum seekers?' 88% supported compromise (92% Labor, 85% Liberal/National, 90% Greens). Respondents were then asked in a multiple response option question, 'Who do you think is responsible for the current impasse on asylum seeker policy?' 58% indicated Labor, 42% Coalition, 39% Greens, 18% independents and 16% 'don't know'. The pattern of multiple response seems not to have been recorded.

Essential Report, 18 June 2012 asked 'Which party would you trust most to handle the following issues?' Of 15 specified issues, 36% of respondents indicated that they would most trust the Liberal Party to handle 'Treatment of asylum seekers', 16% Labor, 13% Greens and 36% did not know.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), May 2012 (report released 15 June 2012, reported in The Age 18 June 2012) posed four questions in an online survey of 'approximately 1000 people'.  First, respondents were asked 'How sympathetic, or unsympathetic, would you say you feel towards refugees who come to your country? 56% indicated 'very sympathetic' or 'sympathetic', 16% 'very unsympathetic' or 'unsympathetic'.  Second, 'How sympathetic, or unsympathetic, would you say you feel towards refugees who come to your country for the following reasons'. Ten reasons were specified, with 'very sympathetic' or 'sympathetic' responses indicated in brackets: 'fleeing starvation' (82%), 'escaping war or armed conflict' (80%),  'fleeing persecution' (69%), 'belonging to an oppressed ethnic group (52%), 'lacking of political freedom in their country' (50%), 'to join their family' (47%), 'lack of religious freedom' (44%), 'wanting a better life' (44%), 'escaping discrimination against homosexuals' (41%), 'lack of work' (31%). Respondents were then informed that there are 'three main ways refugees come to Australia', and asked if 'the way they arrive makes you more or less sympathetic towards them'. 62% of respondents indicated that they were 'much more sympathetic' or 'sympathetic' to those who were 'chosen under Australia's resettlement program and flown in …', 26% who 'fly to Australia with a valid visa … and then claim refugee status when they arrive', 26% who 'come to Australia's northern border by boat …'. In a somewhat confusing final question, respondents were asked 'when you hear/read the word 'refugee', which of the following words/phrases first comes in your mind?', but then invited to 'tick as many [options] as you think apply'. The most popular option was 'boat people' (65%), followed by 'desperate (47%), 'need help (43%) and 'in need of protection; (42%).

Newspoll for The Australian, 5 March 2012 asked respondents to rank ten political issues as 'very important, fairly important or not important for how you would vote in a federal election'. 'Health and Medicare' came first, ranked 'very important' by 83%, 'asylum- seeker arrivals' came sixth, ranked 'very important' by 48%. This approach, which asks for separate evaluation of each issue, produces markedly different proportions than the approach of Essential Research, which asks respondents to select the single 'most important issue' from a list. When asked which party would best handle the asylum issue, 47% indicated the Coalition, 21% Labor, 12% 'someone else', 7% 'none' and 13% 'uncommitted'.

Essential Report, 5 December 2011 asked 'Which are the three most important issues in deciding how you would vote at a Federal election'. Of 15 specified issues, 'Treatment of asylum seekers' ranked second, selected as the first rank issue by 2% of respondents.

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Overview of 2011 polling

A significant proportion of the population does not have a clear understanding of asylum issues; in such a context, survey findings may be significantly influenced by the exact wording of questions, the number of response options, and the method of conducting a survey, with a higher likelihood of a 'Don't know' or 'Refused' response to an online poll (when compared to telephone polling). The Nielsen agency commented in August:

The results of opinion polls on this issue are more sensitive to the wording of the questions asked than for many other topics. This is because the issues are often emotional for some and complicated for all. Respondent knowledge on this subject is never complete. The task of adequately condensing complex options into fair but meaningful questions is also a difficult one.

Lack of knowledge is indicated by questions that ask respondents concerning the number of prospective permanent residents who reach Australia by boat. The 2011 Scanlon Foundation survey (conducted in June-July) used an open ended question which asked: 'Of all the people who come to Australia each year hoping to settle permanently, what percentage are asylum seekers who come by boat'; only 23% gave a response in the correct range (1%-5%), 37% over-estimated the proportion while 39% answered that they did not know.

Essential Research explored the same issue, but provided specific response options. It also found that only a minority could nominate the correct range, but at a higher proportion. On 7 June, the proportions were close to the Scanlon Foundation survey: 18% indicated '1% or less', 15% about 5%, 38% over-estimated the proportion, while 30% did not know. In late September a higher 25% indicated '1% or less'.

The capacity to shift responses by the framing of questions and information provided is illustrated by an Essential Research poll in May 2011 which first asked respondents whether they favoured onshore processing or processing in Malaysia or PNG; opinion was evenly divided, 40% in favour of onshore, 40% offshore, while 19% did not know. Respondents were then informed that offshore processing would be much more expensive; with this knowledge, the level of support for offshore processing fell from 40% to 26%.

What then is it possible to say with a degree of confidence concerning Australian opinion on asylum issues?

First, only 60% to 70% of the adult population have a consistent preference for the policy of one of the three major parties; 30% to 40% indicate that they do not know which party has the better policy. Three polls (January, June, September) found the level of support for the Liberal/ National Party to handle the asylum issue at 33%, 39% and 38%; support for Labor policies was 20%, 19% and 12%.  In both cases this level of support was below the indicated vote for the party. Support for Greens policies was close to their indicated vote.

Best party to manage asylum issues

Question

Which party would you trust most to handle the following issues: treatment of asylum seekers

Which party would you trust most to handle the following issues: treatment of asylum seekers

Best handle the issue of asylum seekers arriving in Australia

Date

January 2011

June 2011

September 2011

Survey

Essential Report

Essential Report

Newspoll

Methodology

Online

Online

Telephone

Sample size

1000+

1047

1152 voters

Labor

20%

19%

12%

Liberal

33%

39%

38% (Liberal/National)

Greens

12%

11%





(Someone else – 13%)




(None – 12%)

Don't know

35%

31%

(Uncommitted – 25%)

Second, in the context of heightened media and political discussion, majority opinion favours 'tough' policies that are seen as likely to deter arrivals. For example, the Nielsen agency found in August (in a survey interpreted in some quarters as favourable to asylum seekers) that 26% considered that asylum seekers should be 'allowed to live in the community' while being assessed; 52% that they should be 'held in detention', while 15% were of the view that they should not be allowed to land. Even among those most favourable to asylum seekers, a clear majority considered that those under the age of 18 should be 'held in detention'.

The Scanlon Foundation survey gave respondents four policy options for dealing with boat arrivals: permanent residence was favoured by 22%; almost twice this proportion (39%) favoured temporary residence only; 12% supported detention on arrival and deportation, while a relatively high proportion (23%) supported the extreme option of turning back boats.

Third, Essential Research findings indicate that opinion on the Gillard government's offshore asylum proposals was evenly divided in April, May, and June, but shifted against the government in July. The Nielsen poll in May registered substantial majority opposition to the proposed Malaysia policy, in a similar proportion to the July Essential Research finding.

Support/opposition for government offshore processing proposals

Question

Regional processing centre in East Timor

Malaysian solution

Malaysia or PNG solution

Send asylum seekers arriving by boat to Malaysia

Malaysia solution – in return Australia will take a fixed number of refugees from Malaysia

Date

April 2011

May 2011

May 2011

June 2011

July 2011

Survey

Essential Report

Age, SMH/Nielsen

Essential Report

Essential Report

Essential Report

Methodology

Online

Telephone

Online

Online

Online

Sample size

1000+

1400 electors

1016

1000+

1019

Support

37%

35%

40%

40%

31%

Oppose

38%

58%

40%

39%

53%

Don't know/Refused

25%

7%

19%

21%

16%

Three polls in August-September focused on whether asylum seekers should be assessed in Australia or overseas. Nielsen obtained a small majority (53%) for onshore processing – in marked contrast with the findings of Essential Research in September. This difference may be the result of negative reaction to the High Court's decision against the government's proposal to send asylum seekers to Malaysia (handed down on 31 August), question wording, different survey methodologies, or some combination of these factors.

Best way to process asylum seekers

Question

Asylum seekers
should be

Should be
processed in

Best way
to process

Date

August 2011

12 September 2011

26 September 2011

Survey

Age, SMH/Nielsen

Essential Report

Essential Report

Methodology

Telephone

Online

Online

Sample size

1400

1000+

1049

Allow to land in Australia to be assessed

53%

36% (Process in Australia)

21% (Onshore: in Australia)

Send to another country to be assessed

28%

53% (Sent to another country)

42% (Offshore: any country 11%; where human rights are protected 31%)

Send back out to sea

15%


28% (turn boats around)

Other/Don't know

4%

11%

9%

Finally, while surveys indicate sharply polarised opinion on asylum, asylum issues do not rank at the top level of importance when a range of election issues are considered. Essential Research in June 2011 asked which were the three most important issues 'in deciding how you would vote'. 'Management of the economy' was ranked first by 34% of respondents; 'treatment of asylum seekers' was ranked first by just 1%, and among the 'top three' issues by 5%. The Scanlon Foundation survey in June-July found that 4% of respondents indicate boat arrivals and illegal immigration as the most important problem facing Australia, while almost 3% were concerned by the poor treatment of asylum seekers.

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Essential Report, 17 October 2011, asked 'Regardless of how you vote, what word would you use to describe the positions taken by Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott on the issue of asylum seekers, including a recent attempt at legislating the deal with Malaysia?' Of twelve options, by far the most popular was 'just playing politics', applied by 46% of respondents to the Prime Minister and 47% to the Leader of the Opposition. 21% considered the Prime Minister to be 'too soft', compared to 7% who made the same judgement of the Leader of the Opposition; the relative proportions for 'unethical' were 24% and 14%.

Essential Report, 26 September 2011, asked for preferences with regard to processing of asylum seekers, but provided more options than the poll conducted two weeks earlier (12 September).  The proportion favouring onshore processing was found to be lower. 'Thinking about the issue of asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat, which of the following alternatives do you think is the best way to process those arriving?'  Only 21% of respondents indicated 'onshore (Australia)', 42% offshore (11% any country; 31% a country where human rights are respected), 28% that boats should be turned around, while 8% indicated that they did not know.  The onshore option was preferred by 58% of Greens voters, 24% Labor and 11% Liberal/National.  A second question asked respondents 'what percentage of Australia's annual immigration intake are asylum seekers arriving by boat?' 25% indicated '1% or less' and 16% 'about 5%', a total of 41% close to the correct proportion (up from 33% when this question was asked on 7 June). 27% indicated that they did not know, while 33% indicated 10% or higher.  A third question asked 'how important do you think each of the following features are for a good refugee processing system' and specified eight features;  the most favoured features were 'keeping costs down', 'protecting human rights' and 'stopping the boats'. At the level of strongest response ('very important'), 'stopping the boats' ranked first (52%), followed by 'keeping costs down' (47%) and 'protecting human rights' (42%).

Essential Report, 12 September 2011, asked 'Thinking about the issue of asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat – do you think they should be processed in Australia or should they be sent to another country for processing?' Only three options were provided – 'process in Australia', 'sent to another country' and 'don't know'.  Australia was preferred by 36% of respondents, another country by 53%, and 11% did not know.

Newspoll for The Australian, September 2011 (published 5 Sept.), asked 'Which one of the (Labor Party, Liberal and Nationals Coalition or someone else) do you think would best handle the issue of asylum seekers arriving in Australia?' 12% indicated Labor, 38% Liberal/National, 13% someone else, 12% none and 25% uncommitted. When this question was last asked almost a year earlier (in August 2010), 29% indicated Labor and 43% Liberal/ National. A second question asked respondents 'Do you personally think the Federal government is doing a good job or a bad job of managing the issue of asylum seekers arriving in Australia? 12% indicated good, 4% neither, 78% bad and 6% uncommitted.

Nielsen for the Age/ Sydney Morning Herald, August 2011 (published 16 August), asked respondents if they thought that asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat should be 'allowed to land to be assessed', 'sent to another country to be assessed', or 'sent back out to sea';  53% indicated that asylum seekers should be allowed to land, a total of 43% that they should be sent to another country (28%) or sent back out to sea (15%), while 4% gave another response or indicated that they did not know.

Three additional questions were asked, but only of a sub-sample. 78% of respondents (those who had indicated that asylum seekers should be assessed in Australia or another country) were asked 'and while being assessed should asylum seekers be … held in detention or allowed to live in the community'. The majority (52%) supported detention, 26% that they should be allowed to live in the community; the third question established that 49% agreed that those whose refugee claims were found to be genuine should be given right of permanent residence in Australia. A final question, asked 'do you support or oppose the detention of asylum seekers under the age of 18'. This was asked only of 52% of the sample, those who were most favourable to the rights of asylum seekers. Even amongst this sub-sample, the largest proportion favoured detention of those under the age of 18.

Given the sub-sampling methodology used by Nielsen, it is difficult to extrapolate the findings to the total population. In reporting the findings both the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald presented their readers with inaccurate tables, as there was a failure to state that except for the first question the proportions did not indicate the views of the total population.

Essential Report, 1 August 2011, informed respondents that 'the Government has recently made an agreement to send asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia to Malaysia for processing, and in return Australia will take a fixed number of refugees from Malaysia.' It then asked, 'Do you support or oppose this agreement?'; 31% indicated support, 53% opposition, while 16% indicated that they did not know. Support was indicated by 50% of Labor voters, 25% Liberal/National, and 19% Greens.

Scanlon Foundation Poll, July 2011, considered perceptions of asylum seekers, including numbers arriving by boat, policy toward boat arrivals and the Humanitarian program, and level of satisfaction with government handling of the asylum issue. For the report of findings, see this site Scanlon Foundation Surveys .

Essential Report, 20 June 2011, informed respondents that 'the Government has proposed sending asylum seekers arriving by boat to Malaysia for processing and the Opposition has proposed sending asylum seekers to Nauru.' It then asked, 'Which of these two options do you favour?' Opinion was divided, with the lowest level of support for Malaysia: 16% indicated Malaysia, 34% Nauru, 30% neither, and 20% don't know.  Support for Malaysia was indicated by 29% of Labor voters, 12% Liberal/National, and 9% Greens.

Essential Report, 15 June 2011, in a question commissioned by Network Ten, respondents were asked 'Is the issue of how Australia handles the asylum seekers more or less important than issues such as managing the economy, education, and health services?' 10% indicated that it was more important, 40% that it was equally important, 44% that it was less important, and 5% that they did not know.

Essential Report, 14 June 2011, posed three questions with regard to the proposal to send asylum seekers to Malaysia. First, respondents were informed that ' the Government has announced a possible agreement with Malaysia on asylum seekers will. Under these agreements, asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia will be sent to Malaysia for processing, and in return Australia will take a fixed number of refugees from Malaysia.' It then asked, 'How much have you heard about this proposal?' 27% indicated that they had heard 'a lot', 31% 'something', 29% 'a little', and 12% 'nothing' or did not know. The follow-up question asked 'Do you support or oppose the government's plan to send asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia to Malaysia?' Opinion was almost evenly divided, with 40% indicating support, 39% opposition, while 21% did not know. The plan was supported by 47% of Labor voters, 40% Liberal/National, and 27% Greens. A third question asked ' if Australia sends asylum seekers to Malaysia, how important are the following issues?' and five issues concerning the treatment of asylum seekers were posed. The highest level indicating 'very important' (58%) were in response to the statement ' There must be a guarantee that asylum seekers are not subject to cruel or inhumane treatment', followed by lower levels indicating 'very important' (41%) for the propositions that 'There must be safeguards against the development of mental health problems in detention' and 'All countries involved should be signatories to the United Nations Refugee Convention'.

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Essential Report, 6 June 2011, posed questions concerning fifteen potentially important election issues. 'Management of the economy' was ranked first by 34% of respondents; 'treatment of asylum seekers' was ranked first by 1%, equal lowest with 'ensuring a quality water supply'. A second question asked 'Which party would you trust most to handle the following issues?' With regard to treatment of asylum seekers, 39% of respondents indicated Liberal, 19% Labor and 11% Greens, while 31% did not know.

Essential Report, 16 May 2011, informed respondents that 'the Government has announced two possible agreements with Malaysia and Papua New Guinea on asylum seekers. Under these agreements, asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia will be sent to either Malaysia or PNG for processing, and in return Australia will take a fixed number of refugees from Malaysia'. It then asked 'Do you support or oppose the Government's plan to send asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia to PNG and Malaysia?' Opinion was evenly divided, with 40% in support, 40% opposed and 19% indicating that they did not know. The plan was supported by 55% of Labor voters, 40% Liberal/National, and 29% Greens. The question was then repeated with the qualification that sending asylum seekers to PNG and Malaysia could 'cost taxpayers substantially more than it would if we just processed asylum seekers on the mainland Australia?' With the potential of higher cost introduced, support fell from 40% to 24% while opposition increased from 40% to 60%.

Nielsen for the Age/ Sydney Morning Herald, May 2011 (published 16 May), asked respondents for their views on the government's plan to send asylum seekers to Malaysia. Just over one-third (35%) were in support, 58% were opposed.  The plan was supported by supported by 51% of Labor voters, 23% Liberal/National, and 45% Greens.

Lowy Poll, April 2011. The annual Lowy Poll on 'Public opinion and foreign policy' was conducted from 30 March - 14 April 2011, and is based on a national sample of 1000 administered by telephone. The results were launched on 27 June 2011. The survey posed two key questions and asked for response to seven propositions. First, it ranked level of concern over specific Australian foreign policy goals. One specified goal was 'controlling illegal immigration'. Of 12 specified goals, 'controlling illegal immigration' ranked in the mid-range (sixth) when the 64% of respondents answering 'very important' is considered; with 'very important' and 'fairly important' aggregated, the issue ranked 8th. The survey found an increase since 2010 of two percentage points indicating 'very important', in a context in which four of the top six issues recorded an increase.  A subsequent question asked respondents if they were concerned or not concerned about unauthorised asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat. 51% indicated that they were 'very concerned', 21% 'somewhat concerned' (a total of 72% concerned), while 23% were not concerned and 5% had no view or did not know. The proportion indicating concern was down from 78% in 2011 and 76% in 2009, with the proportion indicating 'very concerned' constant (down by one percentage point, which is not statistically significant) and 'somewhat concerned' down by five percentage points.  The 72% who indicated concern were then presented with seven 'different arguments about asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat'.

It is not clear why the full sample was not presented with the arguments. As a result of the decision only to ask the follow up questions of those indicating concern, the results obtained were not representative of the Australian population. (If there was particular interest in the views of those concerned over boat arrivals, it would have been possible to disaggregate this group by a simple cross-tabulation.) There were four statements which can be seen as negative;  92% indicated agreement with the proposition that asylum seekers 'might be badly injured or killed during the boat trip', 88% agreed that the boat arrivals 'are jumping the queue', 86% that they 'pose a potential security risk', and 85% that 'too much money is spent processing unauthorised arrivals'. There is very little difference in the level of response to the last three statements. An interesting finding is that among those indicating concern, 44% agreed with the proposition that the asylum issue receives too much attention, given 'the relatively small numbers that arrive by boat', and 43% agreed that 'asylum seekers …are often fleeing war and conflict and Australia should give them a chance to set up a new life in a safe country'. This finding could be extrapolated to indicate that among the total sample, majority opinion supports the right of permanent settlement, but such a finding is inconsistent with other surveys. The wording of the proposition posed may be seen as leading respondents to support a relatively generous position.

Essential Report, 5 April 2011 asked 'Do you support or oppose the Australian Government's proposal to establish a regional processing centre for asylum seekers in East Timor?' Opinion was evenly divided, with 37% in support, 38% in opposition. A high 25% indicated that they did not know. Support was highest among Labor voters (47%), men (42%) and those aged 18-34 (40%); opposition was highest among Liberal/ National voters (46%) and those aged 55 and above (46%). The highest proportion indicating 'Don't know' were among women (32%) and those aged 18-34 (31%).

Essential Report, 24 January 2011, asked 'Which are the three most important issues in deciding how you would vote at a Federal election?' Of 15 specified issues, 'treatment of asylum seekers' ranked near the bottom', selected as the first rank issue by 1% of respondents. When asked 'Which party would you trust most to handle …treatment of asylum seekers', 33% indicated Liberal, 20% Labor and 35% did not know.

Essential Report, 25 October 2010, asked, 'Do you think the Federal Labor Government is too tough or too soft on asylum seekers or is it taking the right approach?' A very low 7% considered the approach to be 'too tough', 63% 'too soft' and 18% 'taking the right approach', while 12% indicated 'Don't know'. 83% of Liberal/National voters indicated 'too tough', compared with 49% Labor. Greens voters were split almost equally into three camps: 28% 'too tough', 33% 'too soft' and 30% 'right approach'. A second question asked which party 'would you trust most to handle the issue of asylum seekers?' 25% indicated Labor, 37% Liberal, 25% responded 'no difference' and 13% 'Don't know'.

Essential Report, 11 October 2010, asked respondents to rank issues which would determine their vote in a Federal election. 'Treatment of asylum seekers' was selected as a first ranked issue by 1% of respondents. 33% indicated that they would most trust the Liberal to handle the asylum issue, compared with 26% indicating Labor and 9% Greeens. 33% indicated 'Don't know'.

Roy Morgan Research, July 2010 (finding 4536), asked 'Should asylum seekers arriving by boat be allowed to apply for immigration as now, or should they all be returned and told to apply through normal refugee channels?' 64% responded that they should be returned and told to apply, 26% 'as now', 5% other and 5% 'Can't say'.

Essential Report, July 2010, Essential Report, asked a number of questions in its weekly polls related to asylum issues, in the context of the election campaign. In response to the question of whether 'the Federal Labor Government is too tough or too soft on asylum seekers …', 10% indicated 'too tough', 56% 'too soft', 21% 'taking the right approach', and 13% did not know. 42% of respondents approved the approach of the Prime Minister, 33% disapproved and 26% did not know.29% 'most trusted' the Liberal Party 'to handle the issue of asylum seekers', 23% the Labor Party, 11% Greens, and 37 % did not know. When asked concerning the 'most important issues in deciding how you would vote in a Federal election', 4% of respondents rated 'treatment of asylum seekers' as their first preference, a further 1% first ranked 'managing population growth'.

Age/ Neilsen Poll, July 2010, found that 44% of respondents considered the Liberal/National Coalition to be the best 'major party' for handling asylum seekers, to 42% support for Labor. When asked which of the Liberal/ National Coalition, Labor or the Greens had the best policy for handling asylum seekers, 34% indicated the Coalition, 25% Labor and 30% Greens.

Galaxy Poll for the Herald Sun, July 2010, asked: 'Overall, do you approve or disapprove of Julia Gillard getting tough on asylum seekers?' 63% approved, 26% disapproved and 11% were uncommitted. The poll apparently did not establish respondent knowledge of Julia Gillard's policy.

Scanlon Foundation Poll, June 2010, considered perceptions of asylum seekers, policy toward boat arrivals and the Humanitarian program, and level of satisfaction with government handling of the asylum issue. For the report of findings, see this site Scanlon Foundation Surveys.

Newspoll surveys for The Australian, April 2009, November 2009, February 2010, July 2010, August 2010 asked respondents 'Which political party do you think would best handle the issue of asylum-seekers arriving in Australia?' In the Newspoll surveys over the last twelve months the Liberal/National Coalition was preferred, with a sharply wider margin between November 2009 and February 2010; a feature of the polls was the high uncommitted response in 2009, which shrank in February 2010 as support for the approach of the Liberal/ National Coalition increased. Other polling confirmed the preference for Liberal/ National Coalition policy, although by varying margins.

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Question: Which political party do you think would best handle the issue of asylum-seekers arriving in Australia?

Survey

Newspoll for The Australian

Newspoll for The Australian

Newspoll for The Australian

Newspoll for The Australian

Newspoll for The Australian

Date

August 2010

July 2010

February 2010

November 2009

April 2009

Liberal/National Coalition

43%

39%

44%

23%

27%

Labor

29%

29%

26%

20%

27%

Someone else

8%

10%

10%

10%

7%

None

9%

7%

5%

13%

8%

Uncommitted

11%

15%

15%

34%

31%

Attitudes to the handling of asylum issues by political parties – preferred party

Survey

Essential Report

Age/Nielsen

Age/Nielsen

Essential Report

Essential Report

Date

July 2010

July 2010

June 2010

April 2010

Nov. 2009

Liberal/National Coalition

29%

34%

35%

34%

27%

Labor

23%

25%

19%

23%

23%

Greens

11%

30%

18%



None



29%

28% (no difference)

37% (no difference)

Don't know/ Uncommitted

37%



1%

13%

Attitudes to the treatment of asylum seekers

Ques-
tion

Federal govt. too tough/
soft

PM Gillard getting tough on asylum seekers

Offshore process-
ing of asylum seekers

Federal govt.  too tough/
soft

Suspension of processing

Right of asylum seekers to apply for residence

Handling of asylum issue

Number of refugees admitted

Policies of the Rudd govt.

Survey

EssR

Galaxy

Age/
Nielsen

EssR

Age/
Nielsen

Morgan

EssR

EssR

EssR

Date

July 2010

July 2010

June 2010

April 2010

April 2010

March 2010

November 2009

May 2009

May 2009

Support tougher policy

56%

63%

62%

65%

58%

64%

52%

62%

55%

Retain current policy

21%

26%

33%

18%


26%

28%

24%

25%

Support softer policy

10%



6%



9%

10%

4%

Do not know

13%

11%

5%

11%


10%

11%

5%

15%

Key: EssR – Essential Report

Red Cross, June 2010 commissioned a poll on Australian attitudes to asylum. Following the release of data to the national media, several approaches were made to the Red Cross to obtain the exact questions used for the survey and response frequencies. These approaches proved unsuccessful. The Red Cross press release highlighted sympathetic attitudes toward refugees. This interpretation seemed to be based on responses to questions which were mostly hypothetical or general: thus, 86% of respondents agreed that they would flee to a safe country if they lived in a conflict zone; 94% of respondents would use all their money to get to a safe country; 83% agreed that people fleeing persecution should be able to seek protection in another country; 83% were willing to assist a refugee in their community to settle in Australia; 67% agreed that refugees have made a positive contribution to Australia. ABC News published the results under the headline 'Refugee debate out of touch: Red Cross'. Robert Tickner, Red Cross CEO, stated in his media release that 'the survey found that the community empathises with the plight of refugees and asylum seekers' and that 'there appears to be a disconnect between the strong sympathy of the Australian public and the unsympathetic nature of much of the public debate around asylum seekers and refugees'. The Red Cross press release noted that 'the survey also revealed a lack of public understanding about the law concerning refugees', without giving further detail. This was a reference to a finding for which details were not included in the press release. The seven questions polled included 'Do you believe asylum seekers who have arrived by boat are acting illegally?' 69% of respondents answered 'Yes' (82% in Queensland and the Northern Territory), 31% 'No'.

Age/Nielsen, June 2010, asked 'Which of the parties do you think has the best policy on asylum seekers?' 35% indicated Coalition, 19% Labor, 18% Greens, and 29% did not know. A further question informed respondents that 'the Coalition has announced that it would reintroduce the Howard Government's policy of processing asylum seekers outside Australia'. 62% of respondents supported offshore processing (25% 'strong support', 37% 'support'), 33% opposed (18% 'strongly oppose', 15% 'oppose'), and 5% did not know.

Essential Report, June 2010, asked for views on the policy to be adopted towards asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat: 31% indicated that they should be 'sent back to the country they came from even if they are genuine refugees', 59% that they 'should only be allowed to stay in Australia if they are found to be genuine refugees' and 4% that 'all … should be allowed to stay'. 6% did not know.

Essential Report, June 2010, asked a question which to date had not been posed in other surveys. It asked respondents, 'From what you have read and heard, what percentage of Australia's annual immigration intake are asylum seekers arriving by boat?' The correct answer is close to 1%. 18% of respondents indicated '1% or less' and 15% 'about 5%'; the most common response, 30% of those surveyed, was 'Don't know'. 15% of respondents indicated 'about 25%' and 10% '50% or more'. In summary, 33% of respondents were close to the correct answer if 'correct answer' is interpreted generously, 30% indicated that they did not know, and 35% gave an answer that was incorrect by a very large margin.

Essential Report, April 2010 asked two questions on asylum issues. In response to the question of whether the Federal Government was too tough or too soft on asylum seekers, 65% considered it was too soft, 18% that it was taking the right approach, 6% that it was too tough, and 11% did not know. In response to 'Which party would you trust most to handle the issue of asylum seekers?', 34% indicated Liberal, 23% Labor, 28% that there was no difference, and 15% did not know.

ANU Poll, June, April 2010 (published October), asked the following ambiguous question: 'If Australia were to grow by increased immigration, please say whether you support or oppose accepting more of the following types of migrant: humanitarian migrants, that is refugees'. Some respondents may have thought that the question was referring to 'boat people', others to refugees assessed overseas, categories which were distinguished in the 2010 Scanlon Foundation survey. 61% of the respondents to the ANU Poll supported accepting more, 28% less, while 9% indicated 'neither support nor oppose' and 3% 'Can't say/ Refused'.

Age/Nielsen, April 2010, polled views on the suspension of processing of Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum seekers; 58% of respondents agreed with the suspension.

Roy Morgan Research, March 2010 (finding 4482), asked 'Should asylum seekers arriving by boat be allowed to apply for immigration as of now, or should they all be returned and told to apply through normal refugee channels?' 64% agreed with the proposition that they should be returned, 26% 'as now', 10% responded 'other' or did not know. When asked for attitude to 'asylum seeker immigration', which presumably referred to those who 'apply though normal refugee channels', 50% were in support, 41% opposed and 9% did not know.

Lowy Poll, March 2010, asked 'Are you concerned or not concerned about unauthorised asylum seekers coming to Australia …' 52% of respondents were very concerned (up from 43% in 2009), 26% somewhat concerned (33% in 2009), a total of 78% concerned, close to the proportion in 2009. The question seems to have been posed with unmatched options, offering two levels to register concern and one level to register no concern: 16% responded 'not concerned' (21% in 2009), and 7% (4% in 2009) had no view either way or did not know. In the minds of many Australians asylum seekers are a form of 'illegal immigration'. The Lowy Poll included a question asking respondents for their ranking of a range of possible foreign policy goals, one of which was 'controlling illegal immigration'. The issue ranked equal fifth of twelve possible goals, with 62% ranking it as 'very important' and 28% important; in 2009 almost the same proportion, 60% ranked it 'very important', compared with 59% in 2008 and 55% in 2007.

Essential Report, November 2009, asked 'Thinking about the way the federal government has handled the asylum seeker issue, do you think they have been too tough, too weak or have they taken about the right approach?', 52% responded too weak, 28% the right approach, 9% indicated too tough, 11% don't know; when asked which party would be best at handling the issue, 27% indicated Liberal, 23% Labor, 37% no difference, 13% don't know.

Essential Report, November 2009, in a detailed poll on asylum issues, asked eleven questions, including some leading questions and some lacking full precision. Respondents indicated a degree of uncertainty and confusion over the issue; thus only 14% of respondents disagreed with the proposition that that 'the Federal Government' is doing the right thing in discouraging people-smuggling and turning back the boats', but more than double that proportion (31%) agreed that 'asylum seekers en route to Australia are people fleeing persecution and their refugee status should be processed immediately by the Australian government'. 55% of respondents rated the record of the Rudd government in its handling of asylum issues as not so good/ poor, 36% as excellent/ good. Only 21% considered that a Liberal Government would do better, 25% worse, 40% the same and 13% did not know.

Newspoll surveys for The Australian, in April and November 2009, asked respondents whether 'the federal government is doing a good job or a bad job managing the issue of asylum seekers arriving in Australia?'; 37% indicated good in April, 31% in November; 40% bad in April, 53% in November. In April, in response to the question of whether 'applying tighter immigration laws to asylum seekers will reduce the number of asylum seekers attempting to enter Australia ..?', 36% indicated that it would, 57% that it would make no difference. In November, respondents were asked if the government had been too soft or too hard on asylum seekers. 46% indicated too soft, 29% about right and 16% too hard.

Lowy Poll, July 2009, asked respondents for their view of threats to Australia's vital interests, including the threat posed by 'large numbers of immigrants and refugees coming into Australia'. By combining two distinct issues in the one question it left interpretation of the result open to question – were respondents concerned primarily by the threat of 'large numbers of immigrants' or 'refugees'? This was a repeat of questions asked also in 2006 and 2008 and showed an increasing perception of 'critical threat'. In 2006 31% indicated that large number of immigrants and refugees constituted a 'critical threat', 33% in 2008 and 39% in 2009 (ranked 10th of 12 threats listed). The question was not repeated in 2010. Additional 2009 questions related to asylum and population issues are discussed with reference to the 2010 Lowy poll, above.

Essential Report, May 2009, informed respondents that 'over the last few years, Australia has accepted about 13,000 refugees per year, and asked if this number should be increased or decreased. 62% favoured a decrease, 24% the same, 10% an increase, and 5% did not know. Asked about the Rudd government's policies on asylum seekers, 55% indicated that they were too soft, 25% about right, 4% too tough and 15% did not know.