Australians are more worried about immigration than before.
Australians are more worried about immigration than before.

Aussies still embrace immigration

More Australians are worried about immigration but they are still in the minority, according to the Scanlon Foundation's 2018 Mapping Social Cohesion Report.

Of the 1500 people interviewed for the annual survey, about 43 per cent thought immigration was "too high" - an increase of nine per cent compared to two years ago.

But a majority of 52 per cent still thought immigration was "about right" or "too low".

Report author Professor Andrew Markus of Monash University said the results did not support the narrative that immigration was supported mainly by minorities and also differed to results from other surveys including a Newspoll in April that found 56 per cent thought the immigration cap was too high.

"There are all sorts of concerns about diversity articulated in some quarters - but this remains a minority viewpoint," Prof Andrew Markus told

"The central message is, even though there are heightened concerns, immigration is not something that should be abandoned."

But the results varied among voters of different political parties.

Among potential Coalition voters, the Scanlon survey found 54 to 56 per cent considered the immigration intake to be "too high", but among potential Labor voters it was lower - between 36 and 43 per cent.

It also varied among cities. In Sydney, 51 per cent thought it was too high, while in Melbourne only 33 per cent of respondents thought so.

Concerns about immigration also appear to be linked to other issues.

About 54 per cent were concerned about the impact of immigration on overcrowding in Australian cities, 50 per cent were concerned about the impact of immigration on house prices and 48 per cent had a negative view of the way Australian governments were managing population growth.


Sydneysiders are more concerned about immigration than Melbourne residents. Picture: Toby Zerna
Sydneysiders are more concerned about immigration than Melbourne residents. Picture: Toby Zerna

Prof Markus said almost half of those surveyed were worried about the impact of immigration on overcrowding cities, housing prices and government failure to manage population growth.

"But that doesn't translate into negativity about the value of immigration, the fact that immigration is good for the economy, that it brings new ideas and that multiculturalism has been good for Australia - all of these remain highly positive," he said.

When other survey results are also taken into account, it seems Australians still have a high tolerance for immigration and diversity.

Social cohesion in Australia has improved in the past year, according to Scanlon's index, called the SMI, which increased by 1.2 index points. Prof Markus said the index had been pretty stable for the last five years.

"Overall the confidence and the level of optimism people have about Australia hasn't really moved much," he said.

There remains a consistently high level of endorsement of multiculturalism, with 85 per cent agreeing with the proposition that "multiculturalism has been good for Australia".

Immigration was also not rated very highly among people's top concerns.

When asked what the most important problem Australia was facing, only 7 per cent said immigration.

The top three responses were concerns over the economy (mentioned by 27 per cent of people and consistently the biggest worry), environmental issues (10 per cent), and quality of government and politicians (10 per cent).

But among One Nation supporters, about 59 per cent thought there should be discrimination on the basis of religion when it comes to immigration. In contrast just 18 per cent of those surveyed overall agreed.

The Scanlon Foundation has done a survey of Australians every year for 11 years, here are some other results.



Other results showed that reports about "African gangs" had scared Victorians.

About 41 per cent of Victorians surveyed were concerned about crime, compared to the national result of 33 per cent.

In NSW, just 31 per cent felt worried about crime and in Queensland it was 29 per cent.



For the first time, about 2000 online responses were also collected from Life in Australia panellists and this enabled them to ask some follow-up questions after the federal leadership spill that saw Malcolm Turnbull toppled as prime minister.

The first survey was taken between July 9 and August 11 and found 43 per cent of the panellists thought Australia's system of government "needs major change" or "should be replaced".

When the question was asked again September, after the leadership spill, the proportion of people who wanted changed went up five per cent to 48 per cent.


Our faith in politics took a tumble when Malcolm Turnbull did. Picture: Dean Lewins/AAP
Our faith in politics took a tumble when Malcolm Turnbull did. Picture: Dean Lewins/AAP


Last year 77 per cent of people thought their lives would be the same or improved in the next three or four years but in 2018, this increased to 83 per cent.



• While 64 per cent agree that migrants should change their behaviour to be more like Australians, a similar 65 per cent support the notion that Australians should do more to learn about ethnic customs and cultures of migrants.

• A minority 37 per cent agree with government assistance to ethnic minorities to maintain their customs and traditions.

• Reported experience of discrimination 'because of skin colour, ethnic origin or religion' remains relatively high in 2018 at 19 per cent, but it has not increased since 2016.

• 23 per cent of all respondents hold negative attitudes towards Muslims. This finding has remained within the range of 22-25 per cent since 2010.

• In response to the proposition that 'I am able to have a real say on issues that are important to me in my local area', there was 68 per cent agreement in 2018 (up from 62 per cent in 2017).

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