The Australian Population Research Institute has released findings of a survey of more than 2000 Australians, which show that nearly half (48%) of participants are in favour of a partial ban on Muslim immigrants. On the other hand, 27% of the survey participants were undecided, and a quarter opposed the ban. The survey also found that 54% of people would like to see Australia’s annual intake of immigrants reduced, and 74% said that they felt Australia doesn’t need any more people.
The 10-minute survey involved participants being asked a series of questions about Australia’s immigration and population policies, and surveyed 2067 eligible voters, mostly Australian-born.
Researchers from the Institute, Katherine Betts and Bob Birrell, stated that the survey results show there is a notable difference between the opinions of Australians and the policies of political parties which are aimed at higher levels of immigration. The researchers also said that economic hardship was not an influencing factor on Australians’ negative opinions towards immigration. In their analysis, they argued that these results ultimately link back to the rapid changes to the ethnic and religious landscape in Australia, as well as the ways that population growth more generally is impacting on quality of life for ordinary Australians.
Lifestyle factors which survey participants felt were being damaged by high population levels included road congestion, capacity in hospitals, housing prices and less job opportunities. Bob Birrell of The Australian Population Research Institute said in a public statement that Australians were now feeling the effects of “Australia’s very high population growth, which is higher than other developed countries” and so it is not surprising that nearly three quarters of the survey participants thought that Australia is “already full”.
The survey results also indicate that the many Australians fear that immigration represents a threat to Australia’s own identity as a nation. More than half of survey participants felt that there was a risk to Australia in losing its culture and identity, and also said that they thought that the country had already changed significantly.
Immigration and multiculturalism have long been controversial topics within Australia and fiercely debated in public and political arenas. While there are many voices (most notably One Nation) which speak out against immigration, and particularly Muslim immigration, there are equal numbers, if not more, Australians who support immigration, and value the benefits of living in a multicultural society.
The researchers from the Institute admitted that the makeup of survey participants (that is, majority being Australia-born) means they are more likely to “take a tough line on immigration” than those born overseas, with the exception of those born in the UK. This may be a reason why the results vary so significantly from research released by the Scanlon Foundation earlier this year, which showed that only 34% of Australians thought their country’s immigration levels were too high. However, the Australian Population Research Institute also argues that recent public debate and media attention regarding these issues is likely to have an impact on public opinion toward immigration, affecting these results.