Politicians may be panicking about immigration. Australians are not

Good summary of the latest Scanlon Foundation report and the point about how important perceptions are regarding how well immigration is managed particularly relevant to Canada:

Australia has not lost faith in immigration. The political narrative has darkened but not the fundamental view of ourselves as an immigrant nation. Most of us remain convinced that we are in so many ways better off for newcomers of all races and creeds who have come in large numbers to our shores.

That is the verdict of the Scanlon Foundation’s 2018 Mapping Social Cohesion Report published on Tuesday. The mission of the foundation is to measure how this migrant nation hangs together. Over the last decade 48,000 of us have been polled to fathom the panics that sweep this country and the steady underlying views Australians have of immigration.

“Immigration is a growing concern,” says the author of the report Professor Andrew Markus of Monash University. “But for media commentators and some politicians it has become an obsession. They are in the business of creating heightened concern, of crisis. But what the survey shows is rather a picture of stability.”

Markus is one of Australia’s leading authorities on the politics of race. This is the 11th report he has written for the Scanlon Foundation. Year in year out his reports show about 80% of us believe immigrants are “generally good” for Australia’s economy and that ours is a better society for the “new ideas and cultures” that immigrants bring to this country. Support for multiculturalism in 2018 stands almost as high as ever at 85%.

“A number of international surveys that look at Australia, America, Canada, a range of European countries from eastern Europe to western Europe, and also countries in other parts of the world, have a consistent finding that on attitudes to immigration and cultural diversity, Australia is within the top 10% of countries which are open to and welcoming of immigration,” says Markus

A glance at the Scanlan report 2018

Putting into perspective the renewed political contest over immigration is the underlying purpose of the latest Scanlon report. This year Fraser Anning called for a return to White Australia; the notion of exiling new migrantsfrom Sydney and Melbourne was seriously debated; and political leaders in all parties called for cuts – sometimes savage – to immigration numbers.

“Politicians present their views on immigration as if they are speaking for the nation,” cautions Markus. “The reality is that their words are directed to that segment of voters in marginal electorates that supports their party, or that may be attracted to their party, or may be lost to their party.”

Rising concern about numbers was a particular focus of this year’s report. This has kicked up significantly in the last few years. In 2016 only a third of Australians believed the migrant intake was too high. Now 43% of us are worried.

In the past, concern about numbers has moved up and down in lockstep with employment figures. Not this time. And the Scanlon pollsters set out to identify what was driving fresh fears in 2018.

“The program itself is something that’s marketable, something that finds a receptive audience,” says Markus. “But there’s a growing concern – still a minority position, but growing concern – that the immigration program is not being well managed.

“This is linked to people’s perceptions of overcrowding, public transport, housing costs, and so on. These issues are much more complex than just immigration intake. That’s what we’re picking up. That’s a risk for Australia going forward.”

Our rising national anxiety about numbers has been measured by a number of pollsters. Lowy, Essential and Newspoll all found a majority wish for the intake to be cut. Ipsos and Scanlon reckon the balance is slightly the other way with 52% of us for keeping – or even increasing – the number of migrants we take.

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This picture of a country divided but still open to mass immigration comes with a fundamental caveat: the boats have stopped.

“I think that John Howard was very successful in that mantra of ‘we control who comes into this country’,” says Markus. “That clearly resonates very strongly. Australia maintained its White Australia policy – very strictly controlled – for decades beyond other countries who abandoned theirs quite quickly after the second world war. Australia has stuck to that very religiously.

“I think it’s been established that the policy of stopping the boats, whatever people will understand by that, is a very strong buy-in. People in Australia in large numbers will turn their gaze away from what happens at offshore detention.”

Not published in this year’s Scanlon report but made available to Guardian Australia are figures obtained for the first time showing what the nation thinks of penning refugees on Manus and Nauru. They demolish the idea that Australia has fundamentally changed its mind about the Pacific solution. The best that can be said is that we’re split on the issue.

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And Markus’ teams established we hardly give a damn what the world thinks of us for doing what we do to these people.

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From the start in 2007, the Scanlon reports have been mapping the dark side of this story. The constituency of those worried about immigration is not small but Markus puts the number of us markedly hostile at only about 10% – though a noisy 10%.

“They paint immigration as somehow transforming Australia, making Australia unrecognisable,” he says. “They see multiculturalism as a threat. Within some of these groups, it gets to the level that they see these activities as treasonous.

“One of the stories that goes around within these circles is that somehow the Australian people were never given a choice. Dangers have been foisted upon the Australian people. Australian people never approved of any of the White Australia policy. You need to have a referendum on that.

“It’s Pauline Hanson’s line, but also far-right groups and it’s been there for decades. What these learned commentators on Australian society seem to miss is that we actually have elections in this country every three years. If people were so upset then they would vote the government out of power and they would vote in One Nation or whoever. We would have Fraser Anning as our minister of immigration if people were so upset.”

Markus found that worries about immigration are uppermost in few of our minds. We are far more worried about the economy, the environment and the poor quality of government. Asked to name the most important problem facing the country today, only 7% of respondents in 2018 picked immigration.

But the figure for One Nation voters was 25%.

Longing for a White Australia has died down over the years but has never died out. Once again the Scanlon report reveals a considerable constituency for keeping new arrivals white and Christian – or at least, not Muslim.

In face-to-face interviews in 2018, 15% of Scanlon respondents agreed it should be possible for immigrants to be rejected simply on the basis of their race or ethnicity. And 18% agreed they could be sorted solely by religion.

As well as conducting 1,500 face-to-face interviews, the teams engaged by the Scanlon Foundation quizzed 2,260 people online, respondents who tend, sitting on their own, to be a little more frank about their negative views.

Online, 22% of us supported sorting immigrants by race and 29% of us for sorting them by religion. These figures mark clear minority positions in modern Australia but they are not insignificant, as the report shows by showing support for the Keep Australia Christian brigade within political parties:

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It speaks quite well for religion. But the latest Scanlon Report offers not much evidence that the nation is warming to Islam. The online survey reveals only a tiny fall from 41% of us last year to 39% of us this year who admit to very or somewhat negative attitudes to Muslims.

“It is a notable finding that across the two modes of surveying, and with a different range of questions, discriminatory immigration policy fails to gain support from more than 30% of respondents,” writes Markus. “Nonetheless, the level of negative sentiment towards those of the Muslim faith, and by extension to immigrants from Muslim countries, is a factor of significance in contemporary Australian society.”

Year after year the Scanlon reports have mapped national divisions over race and immigration. The pattern is clear. Whether the issue is the sheer numbers coming to our shores or their colour and creed, much the same rifts appear between young and old, city and country, prosperous and struggling, those with higher education and those who never finished school.

Typical is the breakdown for the Keep Australia White brigade.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/charts/embed/dec/2018-12-03T05:09:05/embed.html

“That divide between people who have had the opportunity to go on with their education in a formal way at universities and so on, and those who don’t is a very strong divide,” says Markus. “It’s not something unique to Australia. It would be true certainly of western countries that I’ve looked at.”

Markus admits being stumped by the marked – but still minority – hostility to race and immigration shown by people working in trades. And he is not advancing any easy explanation for the relaxed attitudes of graduates. He believes life on multiracial campuses may have a good deal to do with it. But he places greater weight on study itself.

“Respect for reason is at the heart of a university education,” says Markus. “It’s not what you hear down the pub that goes down. You learn there is a discipline. We arrive at conclusions within a discipline whatever you study. Respect for knowledge and respect for reason is perhaps what drives people away from the camp which embraces delusions and xenophobia.”

Markus is heartened by the victory of Daniel Andrews in Victoria. Commentators and politicians were obsessed throughout the campaign with black crime. The fear is there in the Scanlon figures – a third of Australians generally but 41% of Victorians are afraid of becoming victims of crime – but these fears could not be marshalled to deny Andrews victory.

Though Melbourne is the fastest-growing city in the land with immense pressures on infrastructure, Melburnians aren’t calling for cuts to immigration. “And despite the opposition running hard on black gangs etc, the issue didn’t decide the election,” notes Markus.

More than ever, Melbourne looks like the future of this immigration nation.

Source: Politicians may be panicking about immigration. Australians are not

Less open, less tolerant and more nervous, but Australia remains upbeat about immigration

Best summary of the Scanlon Foundation report, the benchmark annual report on Australian public attitudes:

Australians are less tolerant, less open and more nervous about the world than 10 years ago – but not as much as our politics might suggest. That’s the take-home message from the Scanlon Foundation’s long-running social cohesion study, which for the past decade has tracked our feelings about immigration, multiculturalism and Australian society.

Over the years, our sense of belonging, worth and social justice have all taken a hit. From a benchmark of 100 points in 2007, the social cohesion index now sits at 88 – an equal record low since the survey began. But on many measures, Australia’s commitment to multiculturalism and immigration remains upbeat against the odds.

“The simple message would be yes, we’re much worse than 2007,” says Andrew Markus, the report’s lead author and a professor at Monash University. “I think it’s the contrary message – considering what’s happened over the 10 years and so on, we’re actually surprisingly resilient in terms of our attitudes. Downward trend, but not by a huge margin.”

The decline in social cohesion was spurred largely by a growing rejection of difference and sense of pessimism about the future. In 2007, just 11 per cent of Australians felt their life would get worse over the coming few years – in 2017, that figure was 19 per cent. The number of people who strongly disagree with the idea that immigration makes Australia stronger increased from 8 per cent to 13 per cent.

In the past year alone, the number of people who say immigrants need to change their behaviour rose by five percentage points, while fewer people think Australians should do more to learn about immigrants’ customs. In 2017, 20 per cent of people said they had experienced discrimination because of their ethnicity or religion in the past 12 months, compared to 9 per cent back in 2007.

On the hot-button question of Islam, the proportion of Australians who feel negatively about Muslims is stable at 25 per cent – when asked by a telephone interviewer. But when people complete the survey online by themselves, that figure increases to 41.4 per cent. Positivity toward Muslims was highest in Melbourne (34 per cent) and lowest in Brisbane (24 per cent).

But other indicators tell a different story. The number of people who think immigration is “too high” is consistent at just over a third, while 40 per cent say it’s about right. Another 16 per cent of Australians say our current intake – 190,000 people per year – is too low. For reference, we’re significantly more enthused about immigration than Britain, where 60 per cent think it is too high, but less enamoured than Canada, where it is just 23 per cent.

A huge majority (75 per cent) still agree Australia is “a land of economic opportunity where in the long run, hard work brings a better life”. Financial satisfaction remains high, as does people’s sense of individual happiness and worth. But fewer people feel an acute sense of belonging in Australia, with those saying they belong “to a great extent” declining to 67 per cent from 77 per cent.

The figures lead Professor Markus to conclude we are “much more at risk” of a political upset along the lines of Donald Trump or Brexit. The recent resurgence of One Nation is “not a surprise”, he says, given the rising disaffection with politics. But does that mean more of us are motivated by race and immigration?

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“No,” says Professor Markus. “You’ve got an element in our society, and it’s probably growing, but it’s growing at the rate of three, four, five per cent, rather than 30 or 40 per cent.”

The robustness revealed by Scanlon’s annual survey of 1500 Australians is notable given our changing canvas over the past decade. The overseas-born population has grown 37 per cent, with the number of those from China rising 109 per cent, India 176 per cent and the Philippines 74 per cent.

Overall, the percentage of the Australian population that is overseas-born crept up from 25 per cent to 28 per cent. But in the same period, the number of Sydney council areas with majority overseas-born residents rose from one in eight to one in five. In Melbourne, it went from one in 30 to one in nine.

“What that is saying to me is that there’s increasing concentration of the overseas-born population,” Professor Markus says. “You’ve got immigrant communities that are not being integrated in the way that they were in the past. We’ve got a number of risk factors there that are much more significant than they were in 2007.”

Having just smashed through the world record for uninterrupted economic growth, Australia is long overdue for a recession or the type of shock that could see hate and anti-politics boil over.

“We’ve got less money in the bank in terms of the capital we have to deal with a crisis,” says Professor Markus. “In terms of resilience and robustness, and risk factors, they’re there in neon lights. If you have a system which is rudderless, which doesn’t have strong leadership … I do believe that we’re much more at risk. Australia coped quite well with the global financial crisis – could it cope again if there were another similar event?”

via Less open, less tolerant and more nervous, but Australia remains upbeat about immigration

Aussies Say Yes to Multiculturalism, Marriage Equality But No To Politics | PBA

The key findings of the annual Scanlon Foundation report:

The Mapping Social Cohesion report is the annual study tracking Australian attitudes on issues including immigration, multiculturalism, discrimination and political trust and is described as the largest study of its kind with a collective sample of more than 35,000 people since 2007.

Report author Professor Andrew Markus said while Australia was overall a stable and cohesive society, some indicators showed a negative trend.

“There was an expectation that following the victory of the Coalition government in 2013, there would be a significant increase in trust. However, in 2016 only 29 per cent of respondents have a high level of trust in the government, which is 19 per cent lower than in 2009,” Markus said.

The report shows one-third of Australians were politically disengaged with this year’s federal election. Some 34 per cent of survey respondents indicated that they had little or no interest in the election. Among young men aged 18 to 24 years, 23 per cent indicated that they had no interest at all in the election.

Results showed there was also a significant increase in support for change to the system of government – 31 per cent of respondents believed major change was needed, an increase of 8 per cent since 2013.

“One factor influencing disengagement and a lack of trust in the system may be a disconnect between politicians and the public on key topical issues,” Markus said.

Of those surveyed, 83 per cent of respondents supported medical use of marijuana, 80 per cent supported medically approved euthanasia, and 67 per cent supported marriage equality. Reduced reliance on coal for electricity generation was supported by 70 per cent.

The report said the findings also challenged the view that negative attitudes toward Muslim Australians, immigration and multiculturalism were increasing.

“Over the course of the last six surveys, there has been no significant shift in negative opinion towards Muslims, which remains in the range of 22 to 25 per cent,” it said.

Support for multiculturalism has also remained high. The 2016 report found 83 per cent agreed that multiculturalism had been good for Australia.

“There is a positive view of multiculturalism. Most people see multiculturalism as a two-way process of change, involving adaptation from Australian-born and migrants,” Markus said.

Scanlon Foundation CEO Anthea Hancocks said the report provided valuable insight for government, business and the community and those working towards building welcoming, inclusive communities.

The 2016 survey was conducted in July and August, in the weeks immediately after the federal election, and employed a national representative sample of 1,500 respondents.

Hancocks said the findings build on the data collected in eight earlier national surveys, produced in partnership with Monash University and the Australian Multicultural Foundation.

Summary of findings by demographics:

  • Almost a quarter of young males had no interest at all in the federal election, compared to 7 per cent of young women.
  • The biggest predictor of acceptance of immigration and cultural diversity is age, followed by the level of completed education and financial status. Strong rejection of immigration and cultural diversity was around 7 per cent among those aged 18 to 44 years and 4 per cent among those with a bachelor or higher level qualification, compared to 22 per cent of those over 65 years of age and 22 per cent of those whose highest level of education was year 11.
  • A minority of respondents, 26 per cent, opposed marriage equality. Further insight into attitudes to marriage equality by age group shows that of those over 75 years of age, 47 per cent were opposed, 34 per cent aged 65 to 74, and a much lower 17 per cent aged 18 to 24.
  • Support for multiculturalism remains high at 83 per cent, and the strongest positive association of multiculturalism is with its contribution to economic development.
  • Sense of belonging in Australia remains high at 91 per cent, but is lower than the 94 per cent to 96 per cent reported between 2007 and 2012.
  • Just 34 per cent considered that the immigration intake was “too high”, the lowest recorded in the Scanlon Foundation surveys.

Source: Aussies Say Yes to Multiculturalism, Marriage Equality But No To Politics | PBA

Multiculturalism ‘good for Australia’ say 85% of Australians

While the overall patterns are quite similar to Canada’s, one of the major differences is the degree to which our political systems are representative of diversity. In Australia, where 28 per cent of the population is foreign-born, only 9 per cent of MPs are, with only a handful being visible minorities. In Canada, 14 percent of MPs are from visible minorities:

The Scanlon Foundation has been looking at these perceptions over the past decade, and most recent research shows 85 per cent of Australians agree that multiculturalism has been good for the country.

The Scanlon Foundation’s Multiculturalism Discussion Paper has been tracking people’s views across more than a decade of surveys.

Data shows Australians are generally very accepting of cultural diversity and immigration, but the level of support varies across generations, geographical locations and demographic groups.

Research Professor at Monash University Andrew Markus says this report looks in detail at research that’s been going on over the past 30 years.

“There’s very high levels of support. 85 per cent of people think that multiculturalism is good for this country and those sort of high figures, people have been obtaining for 20 or more years but what is particularly interesting in the findings that we’re releasing now is that we look more closely at that proportion who say that it’s been good for Australia – we disaggregate those figures – we try to make sense of those figures in more detail.”

Professor Markus says the research shows current support for immigration is at relatively high levels, compared to 30 or 40 years ago.

“There does seem to be a pattern of greater support for immigration. When it comes to some other issues, such as different ethnic groups, at the level of the data that we have it’s more length of time in Australia and people are more positive towards people who’ve been here for 20 or 30 years and similarly amongst the immigrants themselves, there’s more differentiation among the recent arrivals in terms of the support that they’re looking for from government.”

Centres such as Sydney and Melbourne have the highest level of support for multiculturalism, with younger people also more inclined to be in favour.

But the research not only casts light on external perceptions, it also shows how recent migrants feel about settling in the country.

“What we find when we look at the most recent immigrants is high levels of engagement with Australia but also, and from other research, concerns at the present time about how difficult it is for people to get jobs in the areas they’ve been trained. So there’s certainly some important issues for government in terms of current immigration intake and capacity for people to find the sort of employment that they’re looking for.”

Scanlon Foundation CEO Anthea Hancocks says the paper sets out to explore the complexity of the issue, encourage debate and foster social cohesion.

Ms Hancocks says Australia’s diverse culture is one of the country’s most defining characteristics.

Source: Multiculturalism ‘good for Australia’ say 85% of Australians | SBS News