Mapping Social Cohesion 2011 Report – Summary of Key Findings

The fourth round of the Scanlon Foundation social cohesion survey was administered in June/July 2011 to over 2000 respondents. The survey findings are available for download at Fact Sheets on key issues can accessed through this site.

This fourth Scanlon Foundation survey builds on the knowledge gained in the three earlier Scanlon Foundation surveys conducted in 2007, 2009 and 2010 to provide a broad insight into Australian attitudes at a time of widespread discussion of immigration issues. The Scanlon Foundation surveys represent the most comprehensive surveying ever undertaken of Australian attitudes on social cohesion and immigration issues.

There are many positive findings. The 2011 survey affirms that the vast majority of Australians have a high level of identification with their country, a fundamental prerequisite for any cohesive society. Almost unanimously, Australians express a strong sense of belonging (94%), take great pride in the Australian way of life (93%) and believe that maintaining it is important (92%).

The attitude to the immigration intake, while moving in a negative direction in 2010, returns to the positive pattern of recent years: 39% considered the intake to be too high, but 55% considered that the intake was 'about right' or 'too low'.

There is a positive attitude to immigrants from most countries included in the survey. But among the areas of concern, negative attitudes towards immigrants from Lebanon and Iraq were close to 25%, similar to the level of negative views of Muslims. Both of these findings are high in the context of positive attitudes towards other national or religious groups.

A further concern is the division over policy towards asylum seekers arriving by boat. The surveys asked respondents for their views of the Humanitarian program and found that only 9% were negative, while 73% were positive. But these views do not extend to those asylum seekers who arrive by boat. Only 22% consider that these arrivals should be eligible for permanent settlement, almost the same proportion (19%) as in 2010.

There is evidence that the asylum seeker issue has exacerbated divisions in Australian society and increased disillusionment with government. Trust in the federal government to do the right thing for the Australian people "almost always" or "most of the time" declined from a high point of 48% in 2009 to 31% in 2010 and to 30% in 2011.

Other findings point to an erosion of individual connectedness and weakening of those involved in communal organizations, important indicators of threats to social cohesion.

A final key finding relates to the continuation of a significant long-term shift in Australian opinion. The survey registers broad support for a non-discriminatory immigration program that is perceived to be furthering the national interest.

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