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2018
Scanlon Mapping
Social Cohesion Surveys

Celebrating 11 years of the Scanlon Foundation national survey on social cohesion, immigration and population issues

Download the full report Return to main website

Summary

Eleven years of research in multiculturalism in Australia

Welcome to the Mapping Social Cohesion 2018 microsite, where we present the findings of the eleventh Scanlon Foundation national survey, conducted in July-August 2018.

These findings build on the knowledge gained through the ten earlier surveys (2007, 2009-2017) which provide, for the first time in Australia, consistent annual tracking of public opinion on social cohesion, immigration and population issues.

In 2018 – in addition to the regular interviewer administered telephone survey – the full questionnaire was also administered on the probability-based Life in Australia™ (LinA) panel. To our knowledge, it is the first major survey on social cohesion that has been conducted simultaneously in interviewer administered and self-administered modes.

This microsite presents highlights of the 2018 survey results in the five chapters presented below. To take a closer look at the survey findings, you can download the full report here.

77 questions

56 substantive and 21 demographics.

Two modes of survey used

Interviewer administered telephone survey and self-administered via the probability-based Life in Australia™ (LinA) panel.

3,760 respondents

1,500 respondents, interviewer administered, 2,260 respondents, self-administered.

Eight new immigration questions in the 2018 survey

Enabling a nuanced understanding of shifts in public opinion on immigration issues.

Chapter 1

Demographic context

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

An increase of 5 million people since the Scanlon Foundation surveys began

Australian population increased from 19.9 million in 2006 to 25 million in August 2018.

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.

21% of the Australian-born population are second generation Australians

meaning they have one or both parents born overseas.

Growing diversity of the population

Members of faith groups other than Christian increased from 1.1 million to 2 million from 2006 to 2016.

Factors influencing population growth

Components of annual population growth

Net overseas migration has been the biggest contributor to Australia’s growing population over the last decade and had accounted for 62% of total growth in 2018 as at the end of March.

Where the overseas-born population lives

Population by capital city (2016)

Sydney, Perth and Melbourne are the capital cities with the highest proportion of overseas-born Australians.

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

83%

of the overseas-born population live in capital cities

61%

of the Australian-born population live in capital cities

67%

of the total population live in capital cities

New migrants

Permanent additions to Australia’s population by top ten countries of birth

Australia’s immigrants are increasingly drawn from the Asian region

Religious, cultural and language diversity

Religious affiliation in Australia, 2006, 2016 at the Census

Alongside Australia’s growth in ethnic diversity, members of faith groups other than Christian increased by 84% between 2006 and 2016 – from 1.1 million to 2 million.

In 2016-17 new migrant arrivals were predominantly from India, China, United Kingdom and Philippines

Download the 2018 Mapping Social Cohesion Report

Download

Chapter 2

Immigration

Over the last twelve months, immigration policy has been increasingly contested in politics and the media.

In contrast with many polls based on just one, or a small number of questions, the Scanlon surveys’ consistent and comprehensive questionnaire structure enables a nuanced understanding of shifts in public opinion in relation to immigration issues.

The 2018 report finds Australians continue to recognise the benefits of immigration, despite concerns over population growth.

In 2018, The Scanlon Foundation survey asked if

Accepting immigrants from many different countries makes Australia stronger

Immigration intake

Consistent with other surveys and polls conducted throughout the year, the 2018 Scanlon survey found an increase in those concerned by the level of immigration – up 6 percentage points to 43% since 2017.

But in line with the October Fairfax-Ipsos poll, and contrary to many others, it found that the majority of Australians - 52% - still agree that the immigration intake is either ‘about right’ or ‘too low.’

In 2018, The Scanlon Foundation survey asked

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

52%

of respondents are of the view that the immigration intake was ‘about right’ or ‘too low’

85%

of respondents agree that multiculturalism has been good for Australia

Beyond one dimensional understanding

Eight new immigration questions in this year’s survey provide deeper insight into the perceived value of immigration to the nation, and the potential issues influencing public opinion on immigration numbers.

Beyond a narrow focus on the immigration intake, Australians continue to endorse the view that their country is an immigrant nation, and that immigration benefits the country.

Continuing positive outlook on immigration

In 2018, a majority 82% of Australians agree that ‘immigrants improve Australian society by bringing new ideas and cultures,’ and 80% agree with the proposition that ‘immigrants are generally good for Australia’s economy.’

There remains a consistently high level of endorsement of multiculturalism, with 85% agreeing with the proposition that ‘multiculturalism has been good for Australia.’

In 2018, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked if

Multiculturalism has been good for Australia

In 2018, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked if

We should do more to learn about customs and heritage of different ethnic and cultural groups

In 2018, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked if

People who come to Australia should change their behaviour to be more like Australians

For the majority, multiculturalism is understood as a two-way process of change

64%

agree that migrants should change their behaviour to be more like Australians

65%

support the notion that Australians should do more to learn about ethnic customs and cultures of migrants

Concerns over population growth

While findings suggest a majority of Australians recognise the value of immigration to the nation, close to five in ten Australians are worried about the impact of immigration on overcrowding cities; housing prices; and government failure to manage population growth.

In 2018, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked

Concerns about immigration, selected questions

Difference across demographics

Segmenting data on attitudes to immigration by age and education level reveals both stark contrasts, and similarities.

For example, 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.

Attitudes towards immigration, two age groups and highest educational attainment compared

In 2018, 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?

In 2018, 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 religion?

Segmenting data on attitudes to immigration by age and education level reveals both stark contrasts, and similarities

Since the abolition of the White Australia policy in 1973, fringe political groups have continued to call for the re-introduction of immigration restriction

Support for discrimination on the basis of religion is slightly higher at 18-29% across different survey modes, but is still a minority view

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

In 2018, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked if

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 simply on the basis of their religion? (by political party)

Within a range of sub-groups considered, majority support for immigration restriction is only found among One Nation supporters.

Download the 2018 Mapping Social Cohesion Report

Download

Chapter 3

Problems facing Australia

The Scanlon Foundation survey seeks to determine the issues that are of greatest concern in the community.

Since 2010, the first question in the survey has been open-ended. It asks: ‘What do you think is the most important problem facing Australia today?

In the nine surveys between 2010 and 2018, respondents have consistently given first rank to issues related to the economy, unemployment and poverty.

In 2018, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked

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

Other noteworthy findings

Terrorism and national security mentioned by 7-10% of people between 2015 – 2017, had dropped to just 1% in July-August 2018 when the surveys were conducted, though recent incidents and arrests in Melbourne may have since influenced their ranking.

Concern over immigration and population does not rank in the top three problems in 2018 (mentioned by 7% of respondents in 2018)

Indigenous issues, and women’s or gender equality issues are both mentioned by just 0.3% of respondents

Download the 2018 Mapping Social Cohesion Report

Download

Chapter 4

Trust in government

The Scanlon Foundation’s surveys provide the only annual tracking of attitudes to the functioning of the Australian government since 2007.

Since 2010 the survey has recorded a large measure of consistency, albeit at a low level of confidence in the political system.

The 2018 survey was conducted from 9 July to 11 August, a period of heightened political instability

But in contrast with negative commentary in sections of the media on the Turnbull government during this period, the 2018 Scanlon Foundation survey did not register a low point in government fortunes.

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.

In 2018, 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?

System of government

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’.

In 2018, 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?

28%

think the system of government needs major change, an increase from 23% in 2014

14-16%

think the system of government works fine as it is

10-11%

think the system of government should be replaced

Change in attitudes following the Liberal leadership spill

In the July-August round of surveying, 43% of Life in Australia panellists indicated that the system ‘needs major change’ or ‘should be replaced’ (slightly higher than the 37% indicated by respondents in the interviewer administered survey during the same period).

Following the vote by the parliamentary Liberal Party which defeated Prime Minister Turnbull on 23 August, the September 2018 wave of the Life in Australia panel tested change in public opinion in relation to system of government.

The September survey found that the proportion of the view that the system ‘needs major change’ or ‘should be replaced’ went up by five percentage points to 48% following the Liberal leadership spill – close to half the sample.

Differing attitudes across demographics

When a range of sub groups are considered, those most likely to agree that the system of government ‘needs major change’ or ‘should be replaced’ are those who intended to vote for One Nation, those ‘struggling to pay bills,’ and those whose highest completed education was at the ‘Trade or Apprenticeship’ level.

In 2018, 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?

Download the 2018 Mapping Social Cohesion Report

Download

Chapter 5

Deteriorating social cohesion?

Following a decade of surveying, the 2017 Scanlon Foundation survey identified some negative trends which had the potential to undermine Australia’s future social cohesion.

But the 2018 survey does not provide additional negative evidence, rather, findings indicate stability across key indicators of social cohesion.

The Social Cohesion Index (SMI)

In 2018, the SMI registered marginal upward movement, an increase of 1.2 index points compared to 2017. The Index is now close to the average of the previous four years, only 0.2 index points below the four-year average.

The 2018 SMI registered higher scores in two of the domains of social cohesion, is unchanged in one and lower in two. The largest upward movement is 5 index points in both the domains of acceptance/ rejection and social justice. The domain of social justice, which for the first time fell below 90 index points in 2017, is now above that level. The lowest score remains in the domain of acceptance/ rejection, which is at 69 index points.

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

90%

feel a ‘great’ or ‘moderate’ sense of belonging in Australia

85%

indicate they are happy with life in Australia

74%

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

72%

indicate satisfaction with their financial situation

In 2018, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked

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

In 2018, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked

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

In 2018, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked

How satisfied are you with your present financial situation?

In 2018, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked

Selected questions concerning neighbourhood

In relation to social cohesion at the neighbourhood level, a majority 81% in 2018 agree that people in their local area ‘are willing to help their neighbours;’ and 74% agree that their local area ‘is a place where people from different national or ethnic groups get on well together.’

Steady concerns

In line with 2017 findings, the 2018 national survey found concern over becoming a victim of crime was indicated by a minority of respondents at 33%.

But in Victoria, where there have been a number of violent incidents and attention in sections of the media to alleged out-of-control ‘Sudanese youth gangs’, concern about crime was at 41%, ten percentage points higher that in New South Wales and twelve percentage points higher than in Queensland.

In 2018, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked

Thinking about all types of crime in general, how worried are you about becoming a victim of crime in your local area?

In 2018, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked

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

While reported experience of discrimination ‘because of skin colour, ethnic origin or religion’ remains relatively high at 19% in 2018, it has not increased since 2016.

In 2018, the Scanlon Foundation survey asked

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

Looking ahead

When thinking about the future, the number of Australians who expected that their lives would be ‘the same’ or ‘improved’ in three or four years grew from 77% in 2017, to 83% in 2018.

Conclusion

Signs of stability

Given the magnitude of change which has tested Australia’s social cohesion since 2007 – the Global Financial Crisis, declining manufacturing industry, heightened cost of living, sustained population growth, increasing cultural and ethnic diversity, political instability with six Prime Ministers in ten years – Australians remain overwhelmingly supportive of the multicultural character of their nation and of the value of immigration.

Some two-thirds of respondents affirm that Australians should learn from the cultures of new arrivals, but equally that new arrivals should embrace Australian values.

Over the course of a period of dramatic change, the Scanlon Foundation research has found that a large majority of Australians have demonstrated a remarkable resilience and optimism about the future.

Download the 2018 Mapping Social Cohesion Report

Download