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Mapping Social Cohesion

Celebrating 10 years of the Scanlon Foundation national survey on social cohesion, immigration and population issues

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Summary

Ten years of research in multiculturalism in Australia

Welcome to the Mapping Social Cohesion 2017 microsite, where we present the findings of the tenth Scanlon Foundation national survey, conducted in June-July 2017. These findings build on the knowledge gained through the nine earlier surveys (2007, 2009-2016) which provide, for the first time in Australian social research, a series of detailed surveys on social cohesion, immigration and population issues.

The survey is a major contribution to the systematic monitoring of Australian opinion and provides the opportunity to look back over ten years, allowing us to perceive the changes in Australian society.

This microsite presents the highlights of the survey results in the five chapters presented below. For a full understanding of the survey findings, you are invited to download the full report by clicking here.

77 questions

56 substantive and 21 demographic

Three different surveys conducted

Two probability samples and a non-probability commercial panel

1,500 respondents

Same sample since the 2014 survey interviewed using a dual-frame methodology

Broader spectrum

Additional questions on national trust, immigrant selection, contact across ethnic groups, politics and sense of wellbeing

Chapter 1

Population Growth

The Scanlon Foundation's Mapping Social Cohesion surveys have been conducted during a period of sustained growth and increased cultural and ethnic diversity, as indicated by the 2006 and 2016 census findings.

3.5 million people increase

Australian population increased from 19.9 million in 2006 to 23.4 million in 2016

6.87 million born overseas

28% of the population, the highest proportion among OECD countries

Half of the population

Is first or second generation Australian

Diverse immigration intake

Among the 189,770 arrivals in 2015-16, there were 1000 or more persons from 29 countries

The 2016 census indicates that 28% of the Australian population was born overseas

Australia has experienced above average population growth over the last decade, with an estimated 1.6% increase in the year to December 2016, where overseas migration accounted for 56%

Where the overseas-born population lives

A relatively high-proportion of the overseas-born in Australia live in capital cities

83%

of overseas-born population live in capital cities

61%

of Australian-born population live in capital cities

67%

of the total population live in capital cities

"Australia has always been unfurling, Australia has always been making itself. That is a very attractive quality, what makes Australia feel new is because it is constantly renewing itself with new waves of migration."

Professor Margaret Gardner, Monash University Vice-Chancellor

New migrants

Australia’s immigrants are increasingly drawn from the Asian region

Religious, cultural and language diversity

Growing diversity of the population

Members of faith groups other than Christian increased by 84% between 2006 and 2016 – from 1.1 million to 2 million.

In 2015-16 new migrant arrivals were predominantly from United Kingdom, New Zealand, China and India.

8%

of the overseas-born population was born in China.

7%

of the overseas-born population was born in India.

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Chapter 2

Indicators of stability

Despite the magnitude of demographic change, the Scanlon Foundation surveys find consistency in the level of acceptance of immigration and cultural diversity – and a large measure of stability across key indicators of social cohesion.

Attitudes to immigration

Over 70% supported a reduction to immigration in the early 1990s, but since 2000, most surveys indicate that support has become the majority viewpoint.

In 2017, The Scanlon Foundation survey asked

What do you think of the number of immigrants accepted into Australia?

63%

of respondents see the value to Australia of immigrants from many different countries as positive

37%

of respondents see the current immigration intake as too high

In 2017, The Scanlon Foundation survey asked if

Accepting immigrants from many different countries makes Australia stronger

In 2017, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked

Do you agree or disagree that when a family or individual applies to migrate to Australia, that it should be possible for them to be rejected purely on the basis of their...

race or ethnicity?

religion?

"There is an enormous and over all pretty successful transition of people into this country every day. And the research gives us a picture of what that transition looks like in reality."

Dr Sonja Hood, Community Hubs Australia

In 2017, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked if

Multiculturalism has been good for Australia

In 2017, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked

To what extent do you have a sense of belonging in Australia?

In 2017, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked

What is your level of happiness over the last 12 months?

In 2017, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked

How satisfied are you with your present financial situation?

Download the 2017 Mapping Social Cohesion Report

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Chapter 3

Patterns of change

While there is much evidence of continuing positive outlook, the ten years of surveying also provide evidence of change – and of increasing concerns among a minority of respondents.

Economy as constant concern

26% of respondents have concerns over the economy

Climate change and environment

Environmental issues have declined from a peak of 18% in 2011 to 7% in 2017

Asylum seekers and boat arrivals

Indicated by 12% of respondents in 2012-13, and by just 2% in 2017

Terrorism and national security

Increased from less than 1% in 2014 to 10% the following year and has remained a top five ranked issue

Indication of volatility

Over the course of the surveys, the Scanlon-Monash Index has declined from the baseline 100 in 2007 to 88.5 in 2017, which is equal to the lowest point across the surveys. The lowest index scores are in the domains of social justice and acceptance / rejection.

In 2017, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked

What do you think is the most important problem facing Australia today? 

In 2017, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked

Australia is a land of economic opportunity where in the long run, hard work brings a better life

In 2017, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked

In three or four years, do you think that your life in Australia will be...?

In 2017, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked

Have you experienced discrimination in the last twelve months because of your skin colour, ethnic origin or religion?

A number of other questions have found increased negative response over time. One important aspect concerns perceived failures of Australian democracy and low level of trust in government.

In 2017, The Scanlon Foundation survey asked

How often do you think the government in Canberra can be trusted to do the right thing for the Australian people?

In 2017, 35% of respondents are worried about becoming victim of crime in their local area, opposed to 26% in 2010

In 2017, 62% of respondents are able to have a real say on issues that are important to them in their local area, opposed to 70% in 2010

In 2017, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked

Selected questions concerning neighbourhood

Download the 2017 Mapping Social Cohesion Report

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Chapter 4

A less resilient Australia

There is a second way to interpret the survey and demographic data presented in this report –one that indicates that the Australia of 2017 is less resilient than the Australia of ten years earlier, less able to deal with economic and other crises that may eventuate in coming years.

The Scanlon Foundation surveys were begun with the knowledge that historically immigration has been central to Australia’s economic and social development – a contribution that was unlikely to diminish in the foreseeable future. It sought to provide evidence of relevance to address the critical question of Australia’s ability to sustain the migration and social cohesion story of the post-war decades. There are 2017 findings that bring into question the ability to sustain this success.

One perspective on ten years of Scanlon Foundation surveying focuses on the large measure of stability, the absence of a major shift in mood, although across a number of indicators there has been an increase in the range of 5-10 percentage points in the proportion indicating negative views. While relatively small, change of this magnitude can impact on the mood of a society beyond the numbers involved.

Increasing geographical concentration of the overseas born populations

The increased concentration, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, questions whether past patterns of integration are continuing, or whether new norms are being established.

In 2017, The Scanlon Foundation survey asked

Is your personal attitude positive, negative or neutral towards Muslims?

Over the seven national Mapping Social Cohesion surveys conducted in 2010‐12, and 2014‐17, negative sentiment towards Muslims has remained in the range of 22%‐25% (in 2017 it is at 25%). While there has not been a significant shift in negative attitudes towards Muslims over time, difference in attitudes can be noted when looking at data collected using different modes of surveying.

The relatively high level of negative feeling towards Muslims is a factor that enters into evaluation of future risk

A shift in politics

The decreased electoral appeal of the major political parties, and the increased hold of populist politics in Australia, is in common with a number of western democracies.

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Chapter 5

Magnified discontent

In this section we present the extent of such differentiation when attitudes are considered by self-reported financial situation and level of education and age, and region of residence.

The impact of immigration is magnified through settlement concentrations in regions of the major cities. Similarly, the views of discontented minorities can be magnified by concentrations within sub-groups and regions, with impact through the political process.

In 2017, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked

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?

In 2017, The Scanlon Foundation survey asked if

Ethnic minorities in Australia should be given Australian government assistance to maintain their customs and traditions, by age

34%

of respondents support the assistance to maintain ethnic customs and traditions by the Australian government

In 2017, The Scanlon Foundation survey asked if

Accepting immigrants from many different countries makes Australia stronger (percentage by region of residence)

In 2017, The Scanlon Foundation survey asked

What do you think of the number of immigrants accepted in Australia? (percentage by region of residence)

Australia’s states have different histories, including different historical settlement patterns, with different immigration impact in recent decades.

In 2017, The Scanlon Foundation survey asked

Accepting immigrants from many different countries makes Australia stronger (percentage by party supporters)

Questions on immigration and cultural diversity yield the sharpest differentiation between party supporters.

Conclusion

A point of reference

The Scanlon Foundation surveys provide a reference point to understand pattern and extent of change of the views held within the mainstream and within minorities. They make possible the testing of claims about public opinion, providing an understanding of Australia at a time of change and uncertainty.

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