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Support for multiculturalism in Australia remains strong – poll

13 June 20240 comments

Ninety per cent of Australians believe cultural diversity is a boon for the nation and has been a positive for decades, according to the latest annual Lowy Poll.

The poll, released by the Lowy Institute on Australian attitudes, also revealed that 48 per cent of respondents said the total number of migrants coming to Australia each year was too high.

This result was only a slight increase from the last time the question was asked in 2019 and remains six percentage points lower than its 2018 peak.

But it still represents an 11-point rise since 2014, just months after the then government launched its controversial stop the boats campaign.

The number of people who believed the migration intake was “about right” has also dropped from 47 per cent in 2014 to 40 per cent in 2024.

Despite this, the overwhelming majority of Australians still believe the nation’s culturally diverse population has been a positive thing for Australia, as multiculturalism is a product of decades of immigration.

“We find that people can hold contradictory views in their mind at the same time, but it may not be explained as a contradiction,” report author Ryan Neelam said.

“People see the country’s identity as being a multicultural one, but when it comes to the immigration rate it looks like they’ve become less open towards that.

“It is such a large, complex issue … depending on which part of the issue you ask about, people could have views that seem quite different.”

Immigration is again a divisive political issue as Australia battles housing shortages and a cost-of-living crisis, with the major parties looking to policies that link migration and economics.

The poll also found two-thirds of Australians would prefer to see Joe Biden re-elected as US president.

But almost one in three (29 per cent) support Donald Trump – up from 23 per cent from when he previously ran for president 2020, and 11 per cent in 2016.

However, Australians’ positive feelings towards the United States have fallen to their lowest levels since Lowy Poll began two decades ago.

More than 80 per cent say the US alliance is important to Australia’s security but 75 per cent also believe the alliance makes it more likely Australia will be drawn into a war in Asia.

The poll also showed Australians’ perceptions of China have shadowed a broader stabilisation of the diplomatic relationship.

In 2022, China’s popularity hit record lows with just 12 per cent of Australians trusting Beijing to some degree.

But the election of the Albanese Labor government has provided a circuit breaker in tensions and Australian politicians have re-engaged with their Chinese counterparts as Beijing lifts trade sanctions.

The 2024 opinion polls haven’t rebounded to the highs of 2018, when more than half of Australians said they trust China, but they show 17 per cent of Australians now trust China to act responsibly in the world.

But a potential conflict in the South China Sea and one between the United States and China over Taiwan have been identified as two of Australia’s biggest threats over the next decade.