27 September 2011

Australian national study finds support for immigration on the rise

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Researchers at Monash University today released a study into social harmony, which found that Australians are becoming more positive about immigration.

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A study has found that Australian support for immigration has increased in 2011.

The national study, compiled by Prof Andrew Markus of Monash University's Scanlon Foundation, asked a range of questions on public attitudes towards Australian immigration, refugees, racial tolerance, government trust and national pride.

Among the findings of the report, is an increase in support for Australia's current migrant intake. In response to the question "what do you think of the number of immigrants accepted into Australia at present?", 55% answered "about right/too few" as opposed to 46% in 2010.  At the same time, 39% answered that the intake is "too high" down from 47% last year. 

Similarly, in response to the statement that "accepting immigrants from many different countries makes Australia stronger", 24% strongly agreed (up from 19% in 2010) and 16% disagreed (down from 19%) while the number that strongly disagreed remained stagnant at 11%.

While the results signify a return to patterns between 2007 and 2009, Prof Markus said the result is significant as it "was obtained despite a widespread perception that immigration had increased over the last 12 months".

The study also questioned perceptions of various national and ethnic origins of immigrants. "Negative sentiment" towards people from English-speaking countries like the UK and New Zealand who move to Australia was found to be under 5%, while "negative sentiment" towards immigrants from Vietnam was 7%, China 13% and India 14%.

Mr Markus explained that traditional negative perceptions of some ethnic groups in Australia are diminishing.

"It is notable that some 95% of respondents are positive or neutral towards immigrants from Italy and Greece, almost 90% positive or neutral towards Vietnam and over 85% towards China.  These findings point to a substantial change in Australian attitudes in a relatively short period of time," he said.

The report found that "even with regard to immigrants from Lebanon, who recorded the highest level of negative response (24%), those with positive (32%) and neutral (41%) feelings, a combined 73%, formed a large majority".

Asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by vessel - often called 'boat people' in the Australian news media - garnered a more negative response however, with 39% favouring the policy of temporary residency, 12% supporting mandatory detention and 23% favouring that "their boats should be turned back".  Only 22% supported the right of asylum seekers to apply for permanent residence as stipulated by Australian and international law.

By contrast, 73% of respondents were 'very positive' or 'positive' towards asylum seekers who had been assessed overseas.

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