‘Social Cohesion Report’ Finds More Australians Want Immigration Cuts

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The Scanlon Foundation, a multiculturalism think-tank chaired by ‘Big Australia’ lobbyists, has released its 11th annual report on social cohesion. The report measures “a sense of belonging, political engagement and tolerance of others”, as well as general attitudes toward levels of immigration.

The methodology employed by the report is questionable, as it was a telephone sample that likely included migrant non-citizens or others ineligible to vote. Additionally, as Pew Research Center has found, telephone interviews are often less effective at accurately depicting sensitive issues, and people are far more likely to be honest in the anonymity of the internet. In a different online survey Scanlon funded, it found 50 per cent of respondents agreed Australia’s immigration was too high, rising to 53 per cent when restricted to Australian citizens.

Peter Scanlon, a philanthropist and investor worth $777 million, certainly has a corporate interest in a Big Australia. Both he and the tenured academics presenting the research have an obvious ideological bias, such as Professor Andrew Markus of Monash University. Speaking to Newscorp’s Queensland Times last year in an article entitled “Scary insight into One Nation voters“, the Social Sciences Fellow helped the outlet sensationalise the 2017 Scanlon report:

“Political leadership is scoring quite low, particularly compared to countries like Canada where there has been an upward trend, we are not seeing that in Australia, which leaves room for parties like One Nation to garner support from people who are critical of the system.”

How dare they try to vote for genuine change in a parliamentary democracy. (It’s also worth noting Newscorp owns realestate.com.au. Really makes you think.)

The Guardian and SBS put their social justice spin on the findings, while even Triple J’s Hack sought to be a little more honest about the trends the report shows.

According to the report, most Australians have a positive view toward immigration, with 80 per cent agreeing “immigrants are generally good for Australia’s economy” and 82 per cent agreeing “immigrants improve Australian society by bringing new ideas and cultures”. To the proposition “multiculturalism has been good for Australia”, 86 per cent agree while only 11 per cent disagree.

Despite this approval of immigration and multiculturalism, the report highlights that almost half of Australians are “worried about the impact of immigration on overcrowding cities; housing prices; and government failure to manage population growth.” The proportion of respondents identifying “Immigration/population” as the most important problem facing Australia today has doubled from 4 per cent in 2013 to 8 per cent in 2018.

The report also found  a significant increase in the view that the level of immigration is “too high”, from 37 per cent last year to 43 per cent this year. The report fallaciously merges the responses that immigration intake is “about right” (35 per cent) and “too low” (17 per cent) to imply that the majority of Australians oppose a reduction to immigration. The “too high” response is at its highest level since 2010, when it peaked at 47 per cent.

The report is similarly defensive about any sort of “immigration restriction”, positing that this has been a call from “fringe political groups” since the abolition of the White Australia policy. The report concedes that support for restricting entry (worded as “discrimination”) on the basis of religion is between 18 and 29 per cent and on the basis of ethnicity is between 15 and 21 per cent, though it restates that these are still “minority views”.

As MacroBusiness’ Leith Van Onselen points out, it is likely that this report’s findings are underplaying the backlash when compared with recent polls:

  • Australian Population Research Institute: 54% want lower immigration;
  • Newspoll: 56% want lower immigration;
  • Essential: 54% believe Australia’s population is growing too fast and 64% believe immigration is too high;
  • Lowy: 54% of people think the total number of migrants coming to Australia each year is too high;
  • Newspoll: 74% of voters support the Turnbull government’s cut of more than 10% to the annual permanent migrant intake to 163,000 last financial year; and
  • CIS: 65% in the highest decile and 77% in the lowest believe that immigration should be cut or paused until critical infrastructure has caught up.

The Mapping Social Cohesion report also sheds light on the drastically divergent attitudes towards immigration between different demographic groups:

“among 18-29 year-olds with a Bachelor’s degree or higher, there is no disagreement with the view that a diverse immigration intake benefits Australia, compared to disagreement from 48% of those aged 65 or above whose highest qualifications are at the trade or apprenticeship level.

The former are also significantly less likely to agree that immigrants increase crime rates (7% compared to 51%), or that the current immigration intake is too high (7% compared to 62%).

Both cohorts, however, hold similar and significant levels of concern about the impact of immigration on house prices, and the environment.”

The report, although obviously biased, is worth reading in full. Here are some more noteworthy takeaways;

  • “Support for rejecting the entry of certain migrant groups on the basis of ‘race and ethnicity’ remains a minority view in 2018, in the range of 15-21% across different survey modes.”
  • “Trust in government to ‘do the right thing for the Australian people’ ‘almost always’ or ‘most of the time’ was at a low level (30%) in 2018, but there had been no significant change in this level over the previous four years.”
  • “When respondents were asked if ‘the system of government we have in Australia works fine as it is, needs minor change, needs major change, or should be replaced’, 37% in the interviewer administered survey indicated that the system ‘needs major change’ or ‘should be replaced’.”
  • “6.87 million overseas-born Australians make up 28% of the total population – the highest proportion among OECD countries with populations of more than 10 million.”
  • “Members of faith groups other than Christian increased from 1.1 million to 2 million from 2006 to 2016.”

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