Public opinion as paradox

Australian attitudes to the rate of immigration and the rate of asian immigration, 1984-1990

Murray Goot*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)


Over the last few years, questions in the Australian polls about the rate of immigration and the rate of Asian immigration have generated a remarkably wide range of response. While most of the polls conducted since 1984 suggest majority opposition to the rate at which immigrants, including Asian immigrants, have been coming to Australia, other polls suggest majority support. Differences between the 1984 poll figures and some of the more recent polls may reflect changes over time. Other polled differences almost certainly reflect differences in the way the questions were worded. However, the most remarkable if least obvious cause of the difference seems to be the contexts in which the questions were asked; more precisely, differences in the length and focus of the various questionnaires in which questions on immigration were embedded. Public opinion on the rate of immigration is not only 'soft', it is created in the very attempt to measure it. Under these circumstances there is little point in trying to isolate 'majority opinion' or in attempting to establish which of the polls provides the most accurate reading. Where different readings are a product of differing contexts they may be best understood in terms of competing conceptions of what 'public opinion' itself is all about.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-294
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Public Opinion Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1991

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