Opinion polls haven’t always been helpful in sorting out three distinct issues
1) whether we should take asylum seekers at all (and if so, how many);
2) whether or not asylum seekers who arrive by boat without prior approval should be accepted;
3) whether there are groups we should not take at all, regardless of how or why they come.
Refugee advocates have tended to think that opposition to refugees is motivated by 3, (‘xenophobia’), or to be more precise opposition to Muslim migration and perhaps other groups with a history of political violence (such as Tamils, though I doubt knowledge of the Sri Lankan civil war is widespread in Australia). As refugees tend to be disproportionately from supposedly disfavoured groups, opposing asylum seeker arrivals is a way of keeping them out.
The recent Morgan poll confirms an Essential Research finding last November that there is plurality support for taking asylum seekers. Morgan found 50% support, 41% opposition, and 9% ‘can’t say’. Essential’s figures were 45%/25%/30%, suggesting a lot of ‘soft’ opposition. The differences can probably be explained by polling methods. Essential’s surveys are online, so there is an explicit ‘no answer’ option. Morgan used a telephone poll where only support or oppose were directly offered, with ‘can’t say’ recorded where the respondent couldn’t or wouldn’t choose. If pressed, people with weak opinions tend to go negative. Continue reading “Sorting out asylum seeker opinion”