Skip to content

https://www.monash.edu/mapping-population https://www.monash.edu/mapping-population

Public opinion

Share
Share

Essential Report, 3 March 2015 repeated a question previously asked in September 2014 and February 2011. It asked 'Overall, has multiculturalism made a positive or negative contribution to Australian society?' Multiculturalism was defined as 'the acceptance of people from different countries, cultures and religions'. (For the potential problem with this approach to definition, see below, 2 September 2014.) 57% of respondents indicated the multiculturalism had made a positive contribution, 29% that the contribution was negative. These proportions were close to identical with those obtained in the 2011 and 2014 surveys. A positive response was provided by 84% of Greens voters, 59% Liberal and 59% Labor. 74% of those with university education gave a positive response.

A second question presented respondents with two statements and asked which 'comes closer to your view about multiculturalism'. The results were almost identical to those obtained by the first question and in the earlier 2014 survey: 55% of respondents agreed that 'multiculturalism and cultural diversity has enriched the social and economic lives of all Australians', 33% agreed with the statement that 'multiculturalism has failed and caused social division and religious extremism in Australia'. Just 12% of Greens voters agreed with the negative assessment, 31% Labor and 37% Liberal/National. Analysis by age of respondent found that 66% of those aged 18-34 agreed with the positive assessment, 11 percentage points higher than the national result.

VicHealth 2013 survey of Victorians' attitudes to race and cultural diversity, was a comprehensive survey with a sample of 1,250 conducted by landline and mobile telephone. It included a broad range of questions, including consideration of indicators of overt and subtle prejudice, awareness of race based discrimination, of majority-group privilege, attitudes toward Aboriginal Australians, and factors influencing responses to race and diversity. When respondents were asked for their 'feelings about various racial or ethnic groups in Australia', the highest level of negative sentiment was towards those who were Muslim (22% 'cold', 'very cold') and Middle Eastern (14%). A large majority (78%) agreed that 'people from racial or ethnic minority groups benefit Australian society', while there was minority agreement that 'the Australian way of life is weakened by people from minority racial or ethnic backgrounds maintaining their cultural beliefs and values'. Just one in five respondents (21%) agreed that 'racial or ethnic minority groups take away jobs from other Australians', and one in ten (9%) that they did not have 'positive contact with people from other racial or ethnic groups' or 'felt uncomfortable around people from other racial or ethnic backgrounds'.

Essential Report, 2 September 2014 asked two questions on multiculturalism. The problem with Essential Research's approach is that it chose to provide a definition of multiculturalism and then used a definition that is arguably ambiguous and inaccurate. This highlights perennial problems in surveying, the difficulty of providing a neutral definition of a politically contested term and the potential of question wording to influence response.

First, respondents were asked 'Overall, has multiculturalism (that is, the acceptance of people from different countries, cultures and religions) made a positive or negative contribution to Australian society?' A majority, 57%, indicated that 'multiculturalism' (as defined) had made a positive contribution, 30% that it had been negative. These results were almost identical to those obtained when this question was asked in 2011. A limited breakdown of responses was provided by political alignment, age and education: 81% of those voting Greens were positive, 64% Labor and 51% Liberal/National; 69% of those aged under 35 were positive, 49% aged 55 and over; amongst university educated respondents, 72% were positive.

A second question presented respondents with two statements and asked which 'comes closer to your view about multiculturalism'. The results were almost identical to those obtained by the first question: 55% of respondents agreed that 'multiculturalism and cultural diversity has enriched the social and economic lives of all Australians', 34% agreed with the strongly worded and complex statement that 'multiculturalism has failed and caused social division and religious extremism in Australia'. Just 14% of Greens voters agreed with the negative assessment, 27% Labor and 41% Liberal/National. The result represents a small shift towards the positive assessment since the question was asked in 2011.

Newspoll for The Australian, 16 July 2014, asked respondents 'How would you describe Australia as a place to live? Would you say it is racist?' and provided three response options, 'a lot', 'a little' and 'not at all'. By far the largest proportion, 68%, indicated 'a little', 19% 'a lot', 12% 'not at all', while 25 did not know.

Fairfax Nielsen poll, 14 April 2014, which was released with minimal detail, found that 88% of respondents agreed that under the Racial Discrimination Act it should continue to be unlawful to 'offend, insult or humiliate' based on race or ethnicity. Amongst Greens and Labor voters, 92 per cent opposed change; amongst coalition voters, 84 per cent favoured the current legal formula. This level of disagreement was significantly higher than that obtained by the Essential Report (1 April) in response to a differently worded question. Six out of ten disagreed with Attorney-General Brandis' statement that 'people do have a right to be bigots'.

Essential Report, 1 April 2014 asked 'Do you approve or disapprove of the Government's plan to change the Racial Discrimination Act so that it is no longer unlawful to 'offend, insult or humiliate' someone because of their race or ethnicity? It will still be unlawful to 'intimidate or vilify' someone because of their race or ethnicity.' 38% of respondents approved the proposed change, 44% disapproved. A small majority (56%) of Liberal/National voters approved, but only 38% Labor voters and 16% Greens. 'Strong approval' was at 13%, 'strong disapproval' at 26%.

Essential Report, 4 February 2014 repeated a question on experience of forms of intolerance previously asked in June 2013 and September 2012. Respondents were asked if they had 'personally experienced or witnessed' five specified forms of intolerance 'in the past 12 months'. The forms of intolerance specified were: racism (indicated by 36%), religious intolerance (28%), sexism (29%), homophobia (24%) and 'ageism' (26%). The results were almost identical with those obtained in June 2013. A problem with the wording of the question is that it did not differentiate between 'personal experience' of intolerance and 'witnessing' an incident of intolerance.

Respondents were also asked to indicate the extent to which the specified forms of intolerance were 'a problem in Australia'. The highest ranked was racism (indicated as a 'large' or 'moderate' problem by 64% of respondents, lower than 69% indicated in June 2013), followed by religious intolerance (51%, 54% in June 2013), sexism (51%, 52%), homophobia (47%, 51%) and ageism (49%, 46%). The most likely to think that racism was a large or moderate problem were women (68%), Greens voters (85%) and Labor voters (71%).

Essential Report, 11 June 2013 asked respondents if they had 'personally experienced or witnessed' five specified forms of intolerance 'in the past 12 months'. The forms of intolerance specified were: racism (indicated by 39%), religious intolerance (29%), sexism (29%), homophobia (26%) and 'ageism' (24%). The form of the question was different to the question previously asked by Essential Report (see below, September 2012) with the addition of the term 'witnessed' and specification of a time period. The 2013 version of the question found a much higher percentage indicating experience of intolerance.

Respondents were also asked to indicate the extent to which the specified forms of intolerance were 'a problem in Australia'. The highest ranked was racism (indicated as a 'large' or 'moderate' problem by 69% of respondents), followed by religious intolerance (54%), sexism (52%), homophobia (51%) and ageism (46%). The most likely to think that racism was a large/moderate problem were women (76%), Greens voters (87%) and Labor voters (75%).

Essential Report, 24 September 2012 asked respondents if they had 'personally experienced' intolerance, without indication of the time-frame for the experience of intolerance. Five forms of intolerance were specified: racism (indicated by 12%), ageism (12%), sexism (11%), religious intolerance (6%), and homophobia (4%); 67% of respondents indicated 'none of the above'. Respondents were then asked to indicate the extent to which the specified forms of intolerance were 'a problem in Australia'. The highest ranked were racism (indicated as a 'large or moderate' problem by 71% of respondents), religious intolerance (65%) and homophobia (50%). A third question asked 'which party is better at dealing with the various forms of intolerance'. Close to 50% responded 'don't know'.

Essential Report, 28 February 2011 asked seven questions related to immigration, multiculturalism and Muslim Australians (for questions on immigration, see the Immigration section). It asked if 'multiculturalism (that is, the acceptance of people from different countries, cultures and religions) made a positive or negative contribution to Australian society'. A clear majority (57% to 29%) indicated a positive contribution. An additional question asked about the politics of race and religion: 'Do you think some politicians raise issues of race and religion for political purposes just to generate votes or do you think these politicians are genuinely concerned about Australia's future'. 61% indicated support for the view that politicians were seeking to generate votes, 27% that they had genuine concerns. Those most sceptical of motives were Greens voters (80%), followed by Labor (66%) and Liberal/National (55%). Over one-third (37%) of Liberal/National voters indicated genuine concern, compared with 14% of Greens voters.

Researchers at Victoria University conducted an on-line survey during June-August 2009 concerned with the safety of international students in Melbourne, with their report released in February 2010. While there were 1013 respondents, the sample was skewed towards students enrolled in one institution and contained a high proportion (nearly half) who were local, not international, students. The survey was presented as a 'scoping study' rather than reliable substantive research.

Galaxy Poll for the Courier-Mail, Sunday Mail and other News Limited papers in January 2010 asked respondents 'To what extent do you agree or disagree that Australia is a racist nation?' 52% of respondents agreed, 45% disagreed and 3% were listed as 'uncommitted'.