Dog whistles and death penalties: the ideological structuring of Australian attitudes to asylum seekers

Murray Goot, Tim Sowerbutts

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What drives opposition to asylum seekers who try to reach Australia by boat? One set of explanations, advanced by those who support asylum seekers, is organised around attitudes to ethnicity, particularly to immigration from the Middle East. Another set, advanced by supporters of the government’s hard line, valorises rule following with its opposition to ‘queue-jumping’, ‘illegal’ immigration, and ‘people smuggling’. Using data from the 2001 Australian Election Study (AES), this paper argues that the popular rejection of asylum seekers is a product of both sets of values: for the most part, opposition to immigration, especially from the Middle East, and opposition to Aboriginal land rights; but also a concern about crime and the need for harsher punishments, including the re-introduction of the death penalty. It shows that on a scale of social values, running from pure liberalism to consistent conservatism, respondents: (a) are not wholly drawn to one pole or the other, as presupposed by a discourse in which the ‘elites’ betray ‘the people’; (b) are not clustered around the middle, as assumed by talk of a ‘non-ideological’ age; but (c) are divided fairly evenly between liberals, conservatives and those in between. The paper shows how occupation and education predict positions on the scale. It shows how positions on the scale predict party support - with One Nation at one end, and the Greens at the other. And it shows that while few liberals vote Liberal as many conservatives as liberals vote Labor.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAustralasian Political Studies Association Conference
Subtitle of host publicationrefereed papers
Place of PublicationAdelaide, SA
PublisherAustralasian Political Studies Association
Number of pages37
Publication statusPublished - 2004
EventAustralasian Political Studies Association Conference (2004) - Adelaide
Duration: 29 Sept 20041 Oct 2004


ConferenceAustralasian Political Studies Association Conference (2004)


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