So what do Australians really think about selecting migrants based on religion?

Source: The Guardian

A new Essential poll shows that Australians generally don’t support discriminating on the basis of religion alone for immigration purposes.

The poll asked: “When a family applies to migrate to Australia, should it be possible for them to be rejected purely on the basis of their religion?” Twenty-four per cent of respondents said yes, it should be possible to discriminate. But 56% said no.

This follows previous Essential polls which showed 49% of people supported Pauline Hanson’s proposal for a ban on Muslim immigration, à la Donald Trump.

Previous polling by Roy Morgan from October 2015 found that 65% of Australians supported Muslim immigration, with only 28% opposed.

So, what’s going on here? Why is there such variation between poll outcomes?

There would be some variation due to time and genuine changes in public opinion; normal variance due to sampling error; and some differences may be due to polling methods used.

A large part is also likely due to the way polling questions are constructed.

According to Peter Lewis of Essential, people’s reported concern about Muslims drops when they’re given accurate information on the proportion of Muslims in Australia alongside the question.

Andrew Markus is a Monash University professor who oversees the Scanlonreports, a long-running survey which aims to measure social cohesion in Australia.

His analysis of such polling variations was published in the Conversation and is worth reading in full here.

“Surveys do not simply identify a rock-solid public opinion; they explore, with the potential to distort through questions asked,” he wrote.

He gave an example of how changing question structures can affect the response: “For example, with regard to asylum seekers, nine polls between 2001 and 2010 using various methodologies asked respondents if they favoured or opposed the turning back of boats. The average for these surveys was 67% in favour of turnbacks.

“But, in 2010, the Scanlon Foundation survey tested opinion on this topic by offering four policy options, ranging from eligibility for permanent settlement to turning back of boats. In this context, a minority of just 27% supported turnbacks.”

The Scanlon Foundation has also taken a longer-term look at attitudes towards different religions, with repeated surveys from 2010 asking survey respondents for their personal attitudes towards Christians, Muslims and Buddhists.

Their figures show that personal attitudes towards Muslims’ personal attitudes towards have shifted somewhat, with an increase in those with neither positive nor negative views.

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