Sorting out asylum seeker opinion

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”

The complexities of migration politics

Over the last couple of months, several polls have identified opinion that seems to be inconsistent with migration at recent levels. An Essential Research poll last month found concern about migration on infrastructure, environmental and ‘change to society’ grounds. A Lowy Poll conducted in March found 69% opposition to the 2050 population size that continued recent levels of migration and fertility would according to the Intergenerational Report produce. A Morgan Poll also during March found that 60% wanted a population of 30 million or less by 2040, against projections of 32.6 million at current rates of population growth.

From all this I would have predicted that the Howard-era majority support for the migration program would be disappearing. But the Morgan Poll finds otherwise. 57% of those surveyed think that migration should remain about the same (46%) or increase (11%). Morgan surveys those aged 14 and over; narrowing the sample to voters 54% think migration should be the same (45%) or higher (9%). That’s almost the same as the 52% support last November. Continue reading “The complexities of migration politics”