A sketch in one of the early 1990s comedy shows (Fast Forward?) used a suburban house auction to make a point about Australian prejudices. With Aboriginal actor Ernie Dingo posing as a neighbour during the auction the bidders melted away, and his accomplice in the audience was able to buy the house at a bargain price. This study by Queensland academic John Mangan and co-author Vani Borooah, reported in the SMH yesterday, tells us who we should send to auctions to keep prices down in a range of Western countries, including (partially) Australia, at least over the years 1999-2000.
Though overall what the survey shows is that most people are not fussed by the groups described – people of a different race, Muslims, Jews, immigrants or foreign workers, and homosexuals – Muslims or homosexuals are the least preferred as neighbours. For Australia there was no question about the religious groups, but less than 5% were worried by people of another race or by immigrants and foreign workers, while a quarter did not want homosexuals as neighbours.
The paper does not report it, but this question has been asked before in Australia by Roy Morgan Research. In 1983, 34% of respondents did not want homosexuals as neighbours, while in 1995 it was 25%, the same figure as recorded at the turn of the century. The other groups triggering non-trivial objections in 1995 were Aboriginal people (12%), members of a new religious movement (27%) and drug addicts (74%).
For all these I’d guess that concerns about how a member of that group would behave toward their neighbours (ie the respondent) influence answers, but I am not sure whether this is the case with homosexuals. I’m not sure that any of the gay stereotypes are linked to behaviour that would be regarded as uneighbourly, except perhaps their musical tastes when indulged loudly – which in any case tend to be shared with the far more numerous teenage girls who never turn up in prejudice surveys. It’s perhaps an aversion to what the respondents think gays do in private, which remains unpopular decades after polls recorded majority opinion for decriminalisation.