More people want immigration cuts in 2018, social cohesion report finds – Hack
Australians are more concerned about levels of immigration than they were a year ago, but young university-educated people continue to be the most welcoming to foreigners, a report on social cohesion has found.
The Scanlon Foundation has just released its 11th report on social cohesion, which measures a sense of belonging, political engagement and tolerance of others.
The percentage of respondents who thought levels of immigration were too high increased from 37 per cent in 2017 to 43 per cent this year. Despite that, the majority of Australians still think immigration levels are ‘about right’ or ‘too low’.
Australians are overwhelmingly positive about immigration, with four out of five respondents (80 per cent and 82 per cent respectively) agreeing with the propositions that ‘immigrants are generally good for Australia’s economy’ and ‘immigrants improve Australian society’.
The results are starkly different when you break the results down by age and education.
University-educated young people aged 18 to 29 are by far the most welcoming and inclusive of all groups, author of the report Professor Andrew Markus from Monash University told Hack.
Only seven per cent of young people think immigration levels are too high (compared to 43 per cent of the broader population), two per cent think immigrants don’t bring new ideas and only one per cent think migration is not good for the economy.
But when young people do raise concerns about immigration, they’re for different reasons to older people, the report has found.
Young people are less likely to worry about the impact of cultural diversity and much more likely to worry about the impact of immigration on housing affordability and the environment.
Linking immigration and crime
Young educated people are also less likely to agree with the sentiment that immigrants increase crime (seven per cent) compared to nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) of Australians over the age of 65.
But when education level is removed as an indicator, young people and their older counterparts have more convergent views.
More than two out of five (43 per cent) of young Australians whose highest qualification is a trade, qualification or apprenticeship think too many immigrants are calling Australia home.
Older Australians are also much more likely than young people to link immigration and crime. Concern about being a victim of crime is a minority issue for most Australians, with only one-third (33 per cent) nominating it as a problem.
But in Victoria, where the Coalition fought a state election on issues of law and order and raised alarms about African gangs, the concern is much higher.
“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 per cent, ten percentage points higher than in New South Wales and 12 percentage points
higher than in Queensland,” the report said.
Professor Markus said political rhetoric and alarmist reporting by the media have had an impact on people’s perceptions of immigration.
“When the media gets extensive discussion often fed by politicians which is focussing on immigration as a source of problems, it’s not really surprising that negativity goes up,” he said.
The report highlighted how much more focus immigration had received in the last few months.
“Indicative of the increased media coverage, in the national daily The Australian there were 16 feature articles on immigration, overcrowding of cities and pressure on infrastructure in the second half of 2017, a much larger 72 in the first six months of 2018,” it said.
What do we care about?
Despite the growing unease in some sectors of the community about migrants, the issue of immigration didn’t rank highly on Australians’ list of concerns.
When asked an open-ended question about what matters to them, just seven per cent nominated immigration. That’s up from three per cent in 2015.
“In the nine surveys between 2010 and 2018, respondents have consistently given first rank to issues related to the economy, unemployment and poverty,” the report said.
While young people are much more likely to nominate environmental issues as a cause of concern, overall just one in ten respondents (10 per cent) mentioned it, the report said.
“The main concerns of 18-29 year olds who have obtained a university degree is similar to the full sample, but with concern over house prices and the impact on the environment ranked first and second, where for the total sample these concerns were ranked
second and fourth,” the report said.
Issues like asylum seekers and Indigenous affairs have fallen in ranking over the course of the time the survey has been running, while concern over housing affordability has doubled from two per cent to four per cent from 2016 to 2018.
While Australians may be inclined to have a whinge about the government and other issues, the report shows we’re generally a contented lot.
Seventeen out of 20 people surveyed said they were ‘happy’ or ‘very happy’. But there’s been a fall in that strongest category.
“In 2007, 34 per cent indicated that they were ‘very happy’, in 2017 a statistically significantly
lower 26 per cent, in 2018 a marginally lower 25 per cent,” the report said.
The Scanlon report surveyed 48,000 respondents during the course of its 11 reports, 3760 of them this year. The respondents were weighted to Australia’s population and were asked questions via landlines and mobiles, as well as through online questionnaires.