Do Australians know how many migrants we take?

Pollytics blog points out Essential Research polling showing that most Australians haven’t a clue what proportion of overall immigration is made up of boat arrivals:

From what you have read and heard, what percentage of Australia’s annual immigration intake are asylum seekers arriving by boat?

The correct answer for last year is less than 1%, and maybe 3% this year.

Pollytics thinks this is because most people have no idea how few asylum seekers there are. But could it be because they have no idea how big the official migration program became under Howard and then Rudd?

More than a jumbo jet of invited migrants arrive every day (and that’s not even counting the long-term temporaries), but this is never reported excepted via cumulative statistics that few people absorb. By contrast every asylum seeker boat arrival is news (though I think it is slipping down the news hierarchy as it becomes more frequent). Given the relative news profiles of the two groups, it would seem plausible that people would have a better idea of the absolute number of asylum seekers than the absolute number of people arriving with visas.

Would support for the official migration program have been so high for so long if people knew what was really happening?

9 thoughts on “Do Australians know how many migrants we take?

  1. That question would be rather simple to answer. You could just ask people about the numbers. It’s also not clear to me that legal immigration and asylum seekers are really one and the same issue (I think they’re almost orthogonal, especially because asylum seekers go into the normal refugee pool in terms of limits) — most immigrants get here either on visas that are restricted for a certain amount of time or on permanent ones, and hence have a vastly different legal status to asylum seekers (and I bet people can’t give you those numbers either), and almost all asylum seekers could be booted out if the government really wanted. Alternatively, almost no countries have ever booted out legal immigrants en mass.

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  2. I think the question would have to give prompts like the Essential question did – all the prior questions like this I have seen suggest that few people absorb the detail on matters like inflation, unemployment etc, though reasonable numbers can get the trend direction right.

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  3. The ratio of asylum seekers and non-legal immigrants who arrive by boat vs plane is about 1:5 I think. That doesn’t count as news either.

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  4. The one question none of these polls ever asks, which in my opinion would get the highest % of responses is:

    Couldn’t care less. So please stop ringing me up 24/7 with your inane polls and culture war obsessions. I am too busy enjoying my life, which includes my multi-colored/lingual friends, family, neighbors, customers, clients, employees, colleagues, doctor, plumber, baby-sitter, who hail from every nation/ethnicity on the planet.

    If you lived in the suburbs, as most us do, rather than the inner city, then these answers would be bloody obvious.

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  5. M – It was around 1:4 last year, if you mean people who arrive with other visas but then claim asylum. However it will be a lower ratio this year, given the surge in boat arrivals.

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  6. “every asylum seeker boat arrival is news (though I think it is slipping down the news hierarchy as it becomes more frequent)”

    Huh??? So you’re saying as the que jumper problem gets worse, its becoming less important??? Where’s the logic in that.
    No, rather, ordinary Aussies are very annoyed about the situation, but are generally keeping low profiles about it less the ‘R’ word gets thrown about by the inner city types. But as the detention centres overflow and as crime committed by new-Australians-that-are-struggling-to-fit-in types keeps rising, these opinions will loudly manifest themselves at the ballot box.
    Which on that note, how good is it to see Abbott making such a strong comeback and smashing Comrade Krudd and his Global Warming lunacy for six! A victory for libertarism..Yes, no?

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  7. I’m saying that things that happen a lot are less newsworthy than things happening occasionally. I’m bored of boat stories and I am sure many other viewers are too. We got the general idea – more boats are coming than before – long ago.

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  8. Look at this statement:

    “Given the relative news profiles of the two groups, it would seem plausible that people would have a better idea of the absolute number of asylum seekers than the absolute number of people arriving with visas.”

    You’re confusing the issue too, as not all asylum seekers arrive by boat and not all folks who arrive by boat are successful asylum seekers. As such, knowing the boat counts wouldn’t help the populace much.

    Did they also ask if people knew what our migrant intake is annually (in count terms and/or as percentage of population)? Without a baseline knowing an absolute number of asylum seekers wouldn’t be much use.

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  9. “Without a baseline knowing an absolute number of asylum seekers wouldn’t be much use.

    That was my point – they may think the baseline is much smaller than it is.

    We cannot expect people to know precise numbers, but given that every boat arrival is reported this is the aspect of migration where we could most expect people to have a rough idea of numbers – hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of people.

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