Population, immigration and asylum seekers: patterns in Australian public opinion

Murray Goot, Ian Watson

Research output: Book/ReportOther report


Contention over the size of Australia’s population, its migrant intake and its policies on asylum—in different forms and in diverse combinations—is not new. Over the last thirty years these issues have frequently punctuated political debate and featured prominently in the opinion polls as well. In 1979, three years after the arrival of the first ‘boat people’ from Vietnam and shortly after these unauthorised arrivals had become a political problem for the Fraser Government, the published polls paid more attention to the issue of asylum seekers than they had paid to any issue to do with immigration in any year since the start of polling in 1941. Even though the argument about whether the government was ‘losing control’ was a key concern, these polls focused on the number of Indo-Chinese refugees Australia should accept. From 1984, in what started off as the ‘Blainey debate’ and went on to cost John Howard his leadership of the Liberal Party in 1988, the size of the ‘Asian’ component of the immigration program was in contention—as were the polls. In 1998, the rise of Pauline Hanson on a platform that focused variously on Indigenous Australians and immigrants cost the Coalition a significant part of its electoral support, and generated a new wave of polling.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCanberra
PublisherDepartment of Parliamentary Services
Number of pages59
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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