These days, only bastards and people who know a little political philosophy are likely to question the whole idea of ‘human rights’ (‘nonsense upon stilts’, as the utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham memorably called them). So on questions about parliament paying attention to human rights or increased education on human rights only one or two percent of respondents express opposition.
But only 7% of respondents disagreed with the proposition that human rights are adequately protected (with a large 29% not expressing a view).
Worse for the main advocates of putting general human rights into legislation or the Constitution, the public isn’t in general very sympathetic on some of the issues that are driving the human rights push in the first place.
Only 28% think that the human rights of asylum seekers need more protection, and 30% think that asylum seekers need less protection. Only 32% think gays and lesbians need more protection (18% less).
While 57% think that Indigenous people in remote areas need their rights better protected, other polling shows overwhelming support for the NT intervention human rights advocates opposed. An ACNielsen poll in 2006 found only 29% of respondents believing that the federal government had shown ‘not enough respect for civil liberties’ in dealing with the terrorist threat, another issue where human rights advocates have been active.
So while when the issue of human rights is phrased at a very high level of abstraction most people will say that they are a good thing, when they understand what human rights laws are likely to mean in practice opinion is likely to turn negative.