Each Mapping Social Cohesion national survey builds on the previous year and informs the Scanlon-Monash Index (SMI) of Social Cohesion. The surveys have been undertaken since 2007 where the original survey provided the benchmark against which the SMI is then measured.These surveys provide, for the first time in Australian social research, a series of detailed surveys on social cohesion, immigration and population issues. A prime objective of the surveys is to further understanding of the social impact of Australia’s increasingly diverse immigration program.Australia has experienced significant population growth in recent years. Since 2001, Australia’s population has increased by 3.5 million, from 19.4 million to an estimated 22.9 million as at 31 December 2012. During 2012 the population increased by almost 400,000 persons, 40% from natural increase and 60% from net overseas migration.For further information and media enquiries contact:
Alice Suter: (M) 0413 824 627 (E) alice@think-‐hq.com.au
In its tenth year, the Scanlon Foundation’s Mapping Social Cohesion Report has reinforced Australia’s consistently high level of support for immigration and cultural diversity.
The Mapping Social Cohesion Report has been produced by Monash University researchers since 2007 – with a collective sample of 42,000 respondents. It is the largest survey of its kind and tracks Australian attitudes on issues including immigration, multiculturalism, discrimination and political trust.
Despite significant demographic change over the decade, including population rise and increased diversity, Australian attitudes have remained, in large measure, stably positive.
Notably, 63% of respondents agree or strongly agree that ‘accepting immigrants from many different countries makes Australia stronger’. A minority of Australians (37%) believe Australia’s immigration intake is ‘too high’.
Agreement that ‘multiculturalism has been good for Australia’ remains in the high range of 83-86%, where it has been since the Scanlon Foundation surveys began asking the question in 2013.
Report author, Professor Andrew Markus, said ten years of surveying did demonstrate areas where concerns are increasing among a minority of Australians.
Three quarters (75%) of Australians now agree that Australia is a land of opportunity where hard work is rewarded, down from 81% in 2007.
The percentage of Australians who expected their lives to be worse in three or four years has almost doubled over the decade, from 11% in 2007 to 19% in 2017.
Those reporting discrimination on the basis of their skin colour, ethnic origin or religion more than doubled, from 9% to 20%.
When results were analysed alongside the 2016 Australian census, Professor Markus said further insights emerged.
“There is evidence of increasing geographical concentration of overseas-born populations, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney, bringing into question whether past patterns of integration are continuing,” he said.
“There are continuing relatively high levels of negative feeling towards Muslims, and a close examination of survey responses indicates an increase, albeit of less than ten percentage points, of those indicating strong negative views.
“The perceived failures of Australian democracy and the increasing support for minor parties were developments of potential major consequence for the country,” Professor Markus said.
“Within the mainstream – among supporters of the Liberal, National and Labor parties – there is recognition of problems with Australian democracy, but radical change does not gain majority endorsement,” said Professor Markus.
The report shows that amongst Greens supporters there is high level of endorsement of democracy, but also a heightened sense of the weakness of existing government.
One Nation attracts the highest level of discontented voters, with 37% of its supporters in agreement that ‘having a strong leader who does not have to bother with parliament’ would be good for Australia.
Close to a third (35%) of One Nation supporters are ‘very pessimistic’ about Australia’s future, compared to 10% or less of supporters of the Liberal, Labor and Greens parties. A majority (80%) of One Nation supporters agree Australia’s system of government either ‘should be replaced’ or ‘needs major change’.
The 2016 Scanlon Foundation Mapping Social Cohesion Survey is the ninth survey undertaken in an annual series, which – for the first time in Australian national social research – provides detailed longitudinal data on social cohesion, immigration and population issues.
‘To what extent do you have a sense of belonging in Australia?’, 2007-2016
Results from this year’s survey show that, overall, Australian society remains stable and highly cohesive, with 91% of Australians reporting a sense of belonging and 83% of Australians agreeing that ‘multiculturalism has been good for Australia.’
However the survey results are not without some negative indicators.
‘Would you say the system of government we have in Australia works fine as it is, needs minor change, needs major change, or should be replaced?’, 2014-2016
Conducted in July-August 2016, immediately after the federal election, the survey points to an Australian public growing increasingly disengaged with the current political system.
A combined 34% of Australians indicated either ‘no interest’ or ‘not much interest’ in the Federal election, and 31% of Australians believed the current system of government ‘needs major change’.
Just 31% of respondents believed that the government in Canberra can be trusted to do the right thing ‘almost always’ or ‘most of the time’ – down from 48% in 2009.
Low level of trust in the federal parliament may in part reflect government’s failure to address issues supported by a majority of electors, such as medicinal marijuana use and marriage equality.
‘Do you support or oppose legislation for…’, 2016 (percentages)
‘Have you experienced discrimination in the last twelve months because of your skin colour, ethnic origin or religion?’ Response: ‘yes’, 2007-2016
The proportion of respondents indicating experience of discrimination on the basis of skin colour, ethnicity or religion also increased from 15% in 2015 to 20% in 2016 – the highest level recorded in the Scanlon Foundation surveys.
To read the full 2016 Mapping Social Cohesion Report, including additional findings relating to immigration, multiculturalism and financial satisfaction, click the ‘View Full Report’ button at the top or bottom of this page.
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The Scanlon Foundation surveys, together with a number of international indicators, find that Australia remains a stable and highly cohesive society. International indicators which rank Australia at or near the top of developed countries in terms of living standard, education, health, and quality of life, include the OECD Better Life Index, the United Nations Human Development Index, and the Economist Global Liveability Ranking. The 2011-12 wave of the World Values Survey indicated that 70% of Australians were ‘very proud’ of their nationality, compared with 56% of Americans, 40% of Swedes, 29% of Russians, 24% of Germans, and 21% of Dutch.
The 2015 Scanlon Foundation survey found that 93% of respondents have a ‘sense of belonging in Australia’ either to a ‘great extent’ or ‘some extent’. While sense of belonging ‘to a great extent’ declined from 73% in 2011 to 65%-66% in 2013 and 2014, in 2015 it is at 69%; 91% of respondents agree with the proposition that ‘in the modern world, maintaining the Australian way of life and culture is important’, and 89% indicate that they take ‘pride in the Australian way of life and culture’.
The 2015 survey does not find significant increase in economic concerns. Economic issues are ranked first as the major problem facing Australia, but the proportion of respondents specifying the economy has not increased over the last four surveys. The proportion indicating that they are ‘very worried’ or ‘worried’ that they will lose their job ‘in the next year or so’ declined marginally from 14% in 2014 to 12% in 2015. There has been little change in the proportion indicating dissatisfaction with their ‘present financial situation’, 25% in 2013, 24% in 2014, and 24% in 2015.
Navigate this interactive video platform to listen to a keynote address from Andrew Markus, Professor of Monash University and Mapping Social Cohesion report author. You can then choose to explore a number of questions related to the report and view the response of four panel members from AMES, SBS, Australian Industry Group and Victoria Police.
For further information and media enquiries contact:
Australia remains a highly cohesive society with upward movement in four of the five domains of social cohesion, the exception the domain of social justice and equity. In the 2014 there was some evidence of a lessening of concern over issues of immigration and cultural diversity. While in the ranking of problems facing Australia, the most significant change was the decline of the asylum issue. The survey recorded the lowest level of concern over immigration across the seven Scanlon Foundation surveys. Just 35% consider that the immigration intake is ‘too high’ while 58% agree that it is ‘about right’ or ‘too low’. This is possibly the highest current level of positive sentiment towards immigration in the western world. The results indicate marked differences across the population.. Within third generation Australians, opinion is divided on the extent of integration to be expected of immigrants, and while there is broad acceptance of diversity there is clear indication that a large proportion are undecided or lacking firm views when issues of integration are considered.
Within the SMI, the index of acceptance/rejection, after sharp downward movement in 2013, has stabilised, but remains the lowest ranked of the five domains. Reported experience of discrimination remains close to the highest level recorded in the surveys: 19% in 2013, 18% in 2014. Questions on attitude to Christian, Buddhist and Muslim faith groups find that, as in past surveys, a very small proportion are negative towards Christian and Buddhist faiths (close to 5%), but a proportion almost five times higher (close to 25%) towards Muslims. There are also concerns over the working of Australian democracy. Trust in government remains well below the level recorded in 2007-2009.While there is a high level of agreement (88%) that democracy, is the best system of government, just 15% agree that the system ‘works fine as it is’.
Watch to view the launch of the 2014 Mapping Social Cohesion report.
Santilla Chingaipe opens the Mapping Social Cohesion report launch as the Master of Ceremonies. The honorable Bruce Atkinson describes how the Mapping Social Cohesion report will inform public policy.
View key findings of the 2014 report and listen to Professor Andrew Markus speak to the report’s findings, the methodology and how it compares to past results.
Watch a discussion of the report among panelists including Assistant Commissioner of Victorian Police, Andrew Crisp; Chief Executive, Australian Industry Group, Innes Willox; SBS Journalist Santilla Chingaipe and General Manager, Stakeholders Relations, AMES, Adam Baxter.
Telmo Languiller, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition and Multicultural Affairs, closes the proceedings of the 2014 Mapping Social Cohesion Report launch.
This report presents the findings of the sixth Scanlon Foundation Mapping Social Cohesion national survey, conducted in July 2013.
In addition to the national survey, additional surveys were conducted in 2013. First, a series of locality based surveys: in areas of high immigrant concentration (in Brisbane and Perth); in regional centres impacted by immigration (Shepparton and Murray Bridge); and in a region with little experience of recent immigration (Atherton Tableland in Queensland). The local area surveys were completed by 2,500 respondents. Second, an online survey of recent immigrant arrivals was completed by over 2,300 respondents.
What then is the state of social cohesion in 2013? The Scanlon-Monash Index of Social Cohesion (SMI) provides an overview in the five core domains of social cohesion: belonging, worth, social justice, participation, and acceptance and rejection.
The 2013 SMI registered the second largest change since the 2007 benchmark survey and was at the lowest level recorded. Between 2009-10 the index fell by 8.6 points, it then stabilised in 2011 and 2012 with marginal upward movement – and fell by 5.9 points between 2012-13.
The 2013 SMI registered lower scores in four of the five domains of social cohesion. The largest variation is in the domain of political participation, which fell by 15.8 points. The domain of acceptance/rejection fell by 9.8 points, in large part reflecting increased reported experience of discrimination. The domains of belonging and worth, which had recorded little change between 2009 and 2012, fell by 4.1 and 2.7 points respectively. The one domain to record an increase, that of social justice and equity, increased by 2.9 points. All five domains of social cohesion are below the 2007 benchmark level. The low point is in the domain of acceptance/rejection, which stood at 68.8 points in 2013, down by almost one-third since 2007.
This report presents the findings of the fifth Scanlon Foundation Mapping Social Cohesion national survey conducted in June–July 2012. A separate report covers the 2012 local surveys.
Although the Global Financial Crisis had a relatively minor impact on the Australian economy, at the time of the 2012 survey there was growing economic uncertainty in media discussion, in the context of the European sovereign debt crisis and the decline in growth of the Chinese economy. In 2012, 36% of respondents in the Scanlon Foundation survey identified economic issues as the main problem facing Australia today (up from 26% in 2011).
The 2011 survey was conducted at a time of economic recovery, in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis whose impact in Australia was relatively minor. In June 2011 the rate of unemployment was 4.9%, one of the lowest in the industrialised world. This was also a time of declining population growth, with annual growth falling from a peak of 2.2% in 2008 to an estimated 1.5% in 2010.
In 2010 the SMI registered decline across all five indicators. In 2011 the broad pattern was one of stabilisation, but close to the relatively low level of the previous year; there was marginal upward movement in indicators of belonging, participation and social justice, little change in sense of worth, and decline in the indicator of acceptance and rejection.
The survey was conducted at a time of improved economic activity, with a decline in the level of unemployment from 5.6% to 5.2% between December 2009 and June 2010. The survey context was also one of rapid population growth, with annual population growth at historically high levels of 2.2% in the year ended December 2008 and 2.0% in the year ended December 2009.
There are many positives in the findings of the 2010 survey. General questions relating to national life and levels of personal satisfaction elicited the high levels of positive response that have been evident not only in the Scanlon Foundation surveys, but also in other Australian surveys over the last 20 years. Almost unanimously (95%) Australians express a strong sense of belonging in their country, 90% take great pride in the Australian way of life, and 91% believe that maintaining the Australian way of life and culture is important. 88% of respondents indicate that ‘taking all things into consideration’, they are happy with their lives.
The 2009 survey was conducted in a period of declining economic confidence, with predictions that Australia, along with all Western economies, would face the most severe challenges since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Despite the economic concerns, the Australian government maintained a large immigration program. During recessions in the 1980s and 1990s negative views of immigration had risen sharply; this experience raised the expectation that the 2009 survey would reveal a marked change in opinion since the optimistic times of 2007 when the first social cohesion survey was conducted.
Contrary to such expectation, the most compelling finding is the lack of change between 2007 and 2009. The 2007 survey provided evidence of a society that maintained a high level of positive outcomes, fostering a sense of belonging, social justice and worth. This continues to hold true in 2009. With the two data sets now available, a nominal index of social cohesion has been developed. This index points to marginal increase since 2007 in indicators of rejection, and marginal decline in sense of belonging and worth. But there is also indication of increased participation in political life and a heightened confidence in the federal government and its pursuit of social justice and equity.
It is a widely held view that Australia is one of the most socially cohesive of nations, especially with respect to management of its diverse immigration program since the Second World War. Thus the Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services, Laurie Ferguson, stated on 19 March 2008:
“Australians can be proud of the high levels of social cohesion this country has enjoyed … Australia has achieved extraordinary successes in building a cohesive, progressive and modern country.”
But how is social cohesion to be understood? The Scanlon Foundation Surveys (2007) adopted a wide-ranging approach to enable consideration of fi ve key elements relating to attitudes, reported experience and behaviour.
In keeping with international surveys, which indicate that Australia comes at or near the top in measurement of sense of belonging and worth, our surveys found that:
96% express a strong sense of belonging in Australia.
94% take pride in the Australian way of life.
89% indicate that ‘taking all things into consideration’, they are happy with their lives.
80% agree that ‘Australia is a land of economic opportunity where in the long run, hard work brings a better life’.
In contrast, with regard to specific social justice issues, current immigration and settlement policy and trust in public institutions, division of opinion is evident.