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Red necks most likely to be anti-asylum seekers

18 May 20170 comments

Conservative men with low education levels and strong nationalistic leanings are more likely to have negative feelings toward asylum seekers, new research has found.

It may seem like an exercise in the ‘bleeding obvious’, but researchers at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne found that ideological variables like holding right-wing authoritarian views and believing in a social hierarchy, were the strongest predictors of anti-asylum seeker sentiment.

Researchers at the School of Psychology at the Australian Catholic University did a meta-analytic review of negative attitudes towards asylum seekers.

They found that although significant amounts of diversity in content suggest that further research is required, the literature surrounding negative attitudes towards asylum seeks is quite substantial and points to a few strong conclusions.

They said that studies found that prejudice towards asylum seekers is largely driven by ideologies rather than demographic characteristics. However, demographic characteristics are still heavy influencers.

Their aim was to “systematically explore which demographic factors and ideological variables predict these attitudes”

“Demographic factors of gender, education, religious affiliation, political orientation, and national identification were associated with negative attitudes,” researchers Joel Anderson and Rose Ferguson said.

“More specifically, being male, having less education, being more politically conservative, and higher in national identification were associated with more negative attitudes,” the researchers said.

“Increases in right-wing authoritarianism and social dominance orientation, and decreases in macro-justice principles were also related to more negative attitudes,” they said.

The researchers concluded that most demographic factors were weakly or moderately related to attitudes and that ideological stances were correlated more strongly to negative attitudes to asylum seekers.

They said negative attitudes to asylum seekers were widespread in Australia and increasingly was becoming an issue locally and globally.

Asylum seeker advocates say many of Australia’s negative attitudes toward potential refugees are fuelled by unfounded fear and misinformation.

Many people also believe Australia is in the grip of “Islamisation” that is threatening Christian values, according to separate University of Melbourne research.

The University of Melbourne study found there were many misconceptions and knowledge gaps about asylum seekers – with the least informed people relying on commercial TV and tabloid newspapers for information.

The most prevalent driver of negative attitudes towards asylum seekers was prejudice against Muslims with lots of respondents linking the two.

Welfare recipients who were struggling financially – especially those in western Sydney and rural areas – were more likely to have negative attitudes to people seeking asylum.

But many respondents also said they would also pay a people smuggler to get on a boat if it meant giving their own children a chance at a better life.

These dual attitudes were seen in many of the 10 research focus groups, which consisted of around 100 both white and blue collar workers, from city and country areas in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.


Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist