Are all illegal immigration opponents ‘xenophobes’?

Many people – like Charles and Guido in yesterday’s comments – are quick to dismiss a hard line on illegal immigrants as ‘xenophobia’.

Someone with a generalised suspicion of foreigners would take a hard line on unauthorised arrivals (to use a more neutral term). But it far from clear that a hard line on unauthorised arrivals requires a xenophobic attitude.

If we cross-tabulate responses to the proposition ‘Immigrants who are here illegally should not be allowed to stay for any reason’ with other questions in the Australian Election Survey 2007 we can see how attitudes do not always line up in the way predicted by the they-are-all-xenophobes analysis. For instance:

28% of those who thing legal migration should be increased also favour a hard line on illegal migration.

50% of those who think immigrants make Australia more open also favour a hard line on illegal migration.

25% of those who think that equal opportunity for migrants has not gone far enough favour a hard line on illegal migration.

28% of those who think immigrants deserve more government help favour a hard line on illegal migration.

Some of these are fairly small percentages of the whole sample, but it is another reminder that public opinion rarely matches the categories used by intellectuals and activists to analyse the world.

The average opinion poll respondent would not see any inherent inconsistency in wanting migration controlled or reduced and welcoming migrants who do arrive in the officially sanctioned way.

Indeed, apart from some libertarians and human rights groups, few people want uncontrolled migration to Australia. Some degree of deterrence and punishment is therefore required, for those who decide to come to Australia whether inivited or not. There is room for a far less moralised debate about how tough the policy to enforce border control needs to be.


Does the public support relaxing mandatory detention policy?

How will Labor’s new migration detention policy go down with voters? While mandatory detention for unauthorised arrivals is still part of the policy, it won’t apply to children or where possible their families, and will be as brief as possible to conduct necessary checks. Essentially, detention is no longer being used as a deterrent to illegal migration, and is instead, in the words of Immigration Minister Chris Evans, about ‘risk management’.

So far as I can see, there have not been any polls directly asking about mandatory detention since this Catallaxy post in 2006, when there was 50% support for the ‘Pacific solution’.

But two polls in 2007 asked about illegal immigrants. A Lowy Institute poll asked how important controlling illegal immigration was, with 56% saying ‘very important’. However, only 28% of respondents said that they were ‘very worried’ about the issue, with a third saying they were ‘fairly worried’.

The 2007 Australian Election Survey asked respondents to agree or disagree with this proposition:

Immigrants who are here illegally should not be allowed to stay for any reason

56% agreed, about half of them strongly. Less than 20% disagreed.

In the absence of new boat arrivals, I doubt this policy shift will cause Labor too many difficulties. But on my reading they are probably out of step with public opinion, which as I noted a couple of months ago is becoming less supportive of the legal migration program.

Update 5 August: There is too little detail to analyse the results properly, but The Age today reports an online poll in which a majority opposed a small increase in the refugee intake.

And yet more climate change polling

The climate change polls are flowing almost as quickly as predictions of impending climate doom, with two more out today.

In the Newspoll survey reported in The Australian, confirmation of previous research showing that the overwhelming majority (84%) of people believe that climate change is occurring. Of these people, only 3% believe that it is not caused by human activity.

And further exploration of the issue of whether Australia should stall an emissions trading scheme until the major polluters agree to cut back, or proceed with Labor’s 2010 plan. Last week in the ACNielsen survey 19% wanted to wait, with Newspoll this week finding 23% support for that position (as is usual for this subject, some big age differences with the 18-34 group much stronger on the issue than the 50+).

The Climate Institute has only a partial report of their survey, which asked what the federal opposition should do, with the three options being start a carbon emissions trading scheme in 2010, start before 2010, and start in 2012 or later.

The results are confusingly presented, with the press release stating both that 69% of Australians support the on or before 2010 options, and that 80% support the federal governemnt’s policy, even though there wasn’t obviously a question directly asking that. The latter is more consistent with the other polling, however.

Unfortunately, none of the pollsters have yet explored whether voters understand that Australia reducing emissions would make a very minor difference in itself, and won’t save the barrier reef or the Murray River or any of the other justifications commonly given.

The work-life balance paradox

The second work and life index report, written up at great length in this morning’s Fairfax broadsheets, has the usual left-familist calls for ‘firmer employee rights around controlling their working time’.

But it also has the same paradox as the first report: though most people say that they often or always feel rushed for time, and a quarter say work often or always interferes with enough time for friends and family, only 13% say that they are ‘not satisfied’ with their work-life balance, and nearly 70% say they are satisfied.

As I suggested last year, this study is missing a sense of the trade-offs people make. They should ask a lot more about how people feel about the work they do, not just in its personal rewards (money etc), but in how people see it contributing to something worthwhile.

In the 2005 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes, for example, about two-thirds of respondents agree or strongly agree with the statement that ‘my job is useful to society’, and nearly three-quarters agree or strongly agree with the statement that ‘in my job I can help other people’. 70% say they are proud to work for the firm or organisation that they do, and 60% say they are prepared to work harder than they have to for it to succeed. Continue reading “The work-life balance paradox”

Marriage for money

Intimacy for money is a taboo, which is why when newspapers want to dramatise student poverty they talk about student prostitutes or, in The Age today, fake marriages to qualify as ‘independent’ for Youth Allowance:

JOHAN Stutt never planned on getting married at the age of 18 – let alone to someone he didn’t love. Some might say it was a matter of survival.

Stories like this have been around for decades – 20 years ago there were ‘TEAS marriages’ [Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme, a Youth Allowance predecessor], though usually in the version of the story at the time between gays and lesbians, whose marriage rights weren’t worth anything anyway (another reason for gay marriage – reduce welfare rorting!).

But a quick check of the marriage statistics shows that this is not likely to be a growing problem. The teen marriage rate is in long-term decline, and teenage men have a less than 1% probability of getting married for any reason. In 2006, there were 423 marriages by men aged 19 or under (and at a guess, most of them will never enrol in any degree).

We don’t need to worry much about this kind of Youth Allowance rorting, as not many people who would marry someone they did not love. It’s the easy work/earnings test I want to tighten up, and I am quoted saying that right at the end of The Age article. Unsurprisingly, I am the only person going on the record suggesting that in some cases we spend too much, rather than too little, on student income support.

Who did dog whistling deceive?

I must have been busy late November last year, and missed this Australia Institute paper, Under the Radar: Dog Whistle Politics (pdf), by the appropriately named Josh Fear. It did get a little media coverage, eg here.

It defines dog-whistle politics as

the art of sending coded or implicit messages to a select group of voters while keeping others in the dark.

Fear clearly thinks that dog whistle politics is bad, but the reader is left a little unsure as to exactly why. The conclusion summarises his reasons

* dog whistling undermines democracy by working against clarity and directness
* dog whistlers have sought to ‘create and inflame paranoia about minority groups and outsiders, and to taint the politics of immigration and Aboriginal affairs with parochialism and suspicion’

But these two criticisms seem to at least be in tension, if not contradiction. If messages so subtle they need decoding inflame paranoia (which they certainly have in Fear’s case), how much paranoia would they create if they were stated with clarity and directness?
Continue reading “Who did dog whistling deceive?”

Why is the right happier than the left?

So far as I am aware, every survey that asks about political orientation and happiness finds that right-wingers are happier than left-wingers. In the 2007 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes, Liberal identifiers were a massive 13% ahead of Labor identifiers as describing themselves as ‘very happy’, 40%/27%. At his blog, Winton Bates summarises a new article on this subject, by Jaime Napier and John Jost in the June issue of Psychological Science, this way:

The study suggests that some of the association between political orientation and subjective well-being is accounted for by beliefs about inequality. The authors examined the effect of introducing ideological variables – relating to beliefs about inequality and meritocracy- in regression analyses explaining life satisfaction in the U.S. and nine other countries. They found that when the ideological variable was introduced into the analysis it took some of the explanatory power away from the political variable. …

The authors conclude that “inequality takes a greater psychological toll on liberals than on conservatives, apparently because liberals lack ideological rationalizations that would help them frame inequality in a positive (or at least neutral) light”

I don’t doubt that there is a statistical relationship between beliefs about inequality, meritocracy, and getting ahead that helps explain why leftists are not as happy as conservatives and others on the right. Even the new president of the American Enterprise Institute, Arthur Brooks, makes this point in his book Gross National Happiness.

But how likely is that when people are asked how happy they feel, their mind turns to ideological rationalisations of inequality? Continue reading “Why is the right happier than the left?”

Spreading ignorance of a carbon emissions trading scheme

After three weeks of nearly non-stop discussion of a carbon emissions trading scheme public knowledge of it is…decreasing! On 1 July, The Age reported that half those surveyed by a Galaxy Poll had either not heard of an emissions trading scheme or did not know what it was. Today another Age report, this time of an ACNielsen poll, finds ignorance at 60% (I think the inclusion of a ‘slightly’ understand option pushed up those willing to confess to being baffled by the biggest reform in a decade).

Overall, there is a similar pattern here to other polling, which shows that most people are, at least in principle, willing to pay more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The only question in this poll to yield new and interesting information was on whether Australia should act regardless of what other countries do. A surprisingly high number – 77% – say yes, with 19% saying we should reduce greenhouse gas emissions only if other nations do. I’d like to see more polling that investigates whether people believe that Australia acting alone will have much of an effect or not. With most respondents admitting to at best sketchy knowledge, it is hard to know what factual assumptions are behind the answers they are giving.

The book industry vs book readers

Australia’s literati think that we owe them a living. In the Weekend Australian today, author Michael Wilding complains that

Through the years Australian governments have consistently disadvantaged books and writers,

but what he really means is that Australian governments have become less inclined to advantage book publishers, sellers and writers, at the expense of readers and taxpayers.

Wilding’s criticisms aren’t even consistent. He starts by complaining that the GST made books more expensive, yet his very next complaint is about the abolition of retail price maintenance – which prevented booksellers from discounting to make books cheaper!

He says relaxation of copyright rules, so that booksellers could bring in foreign books not published by local copyright holders within 30 days, undermined the importation business he used to maintain his small Australian publishing firm. Unless he was being very inefficient I am not sure why. He could still overcharge provided he did it quickly.
Continue reading “The book industry vs book readers”

Guy Pearse’s greenhouse conspiracy theory, the Labor version

Last year Guy Pearse, adopting the pose of a Liberal dissident, authored a 417-page conspiracy theory called High and Dry. The book argued that John Howard’s climate change stance was the result of the fossil fuel lobby and ‘neo-liberal’ think-tanks. Pearse’s imagination was running so wild on the CIS’s role that I was incorporated into the conspiracy, despite my silence on the issue.

I’m now wondering who will feature in the Labor version of High and Dry. Yesterday in Crikey (here for subscribers) Pearse said:

Kevin Rudd may not look like he’s following John Howard on climate change, but he may well be. The strategy and rhetoric are more polished, but the confusion between polluter interests and the national interest seems much the same.

While the CIS isn’t featuring in this version of the story (though perhaps when Rudd turned up a the CIS to give a speech attacking our beliefs it was really just a cover, and we control him too), the argument that this is about polluter lobby groups is still there.
Continue reading “Guy Pearse’s greenhouse conspiracy theory, the Labor version”