I don’t have any direct measures of tolerance by region, but we do have survey evidence on ethnic attitudes by region. The 2007 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes included several social distance questions, which ask what degree of closeness the respondent is prepared to have with a member of a particular group. The categories are welcome as family member, welcome as close friend, have as next door neighbour, welcome as work mates, allow as Australian citizen, have as visitor only, and keep out of Australia altogether.
There was also a question asking respondents to classify where they lived. I have looked at three locations – rural and small town combined, outer metropolitan, and inner metropolitan.
I looked only at the extremes – what proportion of people in each locality either wanted a high social distance, keep out of Australia or have as a visitor only, or were happy with a low social distance, have as family member or as a close friend.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Lebanese were not very popular, with 31% of rural/small town respondents, 25% of outer metropolitan respondents, and 20% of inner metropolitan respondents wanting high social distance. The corresponding figures for low social distance were 27%, 34% and 41%.
For the Vietnamese, 26% of rural/small town respondents, 17% of outer metropolitan respondents, and 13% of inner metropolian respondents wanted high social distance. The corresponding figures for low social distance were 28%, 38% and 45%.
Even for racists my high social distance measure would seem a bit rough on Aborigines, but nevertheless about 5% of all respondent groups would not allow indigenous people to be citizens. The low social distance scores were stronger and closer together by locality than for the other groups: 41% for rural/small town respondents, 43% for outer-metropolitan, and 48% for inner metropolitan.
Overall, Conrad is right if attitudes provide motivation for action. But I know what Charles was talking about. Being very much a city person, I never had much contact with people from rural areas until I tutored for a few years at the Australian Defence Force Academy, which recruits strongly outside the cities. The country cadets often had a very natural warmth to them; after a while I could take a pretty good guess where a cadet came from just by the way he or she was interacting with me.
On the other hand, I also know what Conrad was getting at. When we held a tutorial on indigenous issues, they made their views very clear. They were fed up with the problems they saw Aboriginal people causing in their home towns. Unfortunately, attitudes based on personal experience rather than general impressions are likely to be hard to shift.