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Australians more alarmed about state of politics than impact of migration and minorities, survey finds

Andrew Markus writes in The Conversation (22.11.16) about a recent Scanlon Foundation survey which provides grounds for caution in applying overseas comparisons to shifts in Australian public opinion.

‘There is no shortage of expert commentary on current shifts in public opinion, understood as a revolt against political elites.

‘Within Europe and the United States interpretations are supported by the British vote to leave the European Union, the increasing popularity of far-right parties campaigning on anti-immigration and nationalist platforms, and the success of Donald Trump in winning the US presidency.

‘In Australia, commentators point to instability in politics, elections that fail to return clear majorities, the loss of office of first-term governments in Queensland and Victoria, growing minor party representation in the Senate, and public unease at immigration policy and the Muslim presence.

‘… A different perspective on the Australian political mood is provided by the 2016 Scanlon Foundation survey. Contrary to Sloan’s “guess”, survey data indicate a continuing low level of concern over immigration.

‘In 2016 just 34% of respondents considered that the immigration intake was “too high”, the lowest recorded in the Scanlon Foundation surveys. This matched the findings of recent Lowy Institute and Roy Morgan polls.

‘There are grounds for caution in drawing lessons from British and US votes, while ignoring developments in Canada and New Zealand. Structural factors, notably the impact of the global financial crisis on employment and the housing market, and uncontrolled cross-border population movement, do not have the same impact on public opinion in Australia.’

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