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Do Australians wish to return to high levels of immigration, or not?

A recent opinion poll by The Australian Centre for Population Research (TAPRI) found that 70% of Australians do not wish to return to pre-Covid immigration levels of 240,000 per year or anything like this number.

In contrast, an Essential Research (ER) poll suggested that a declining proportion of respondents were concerned about immigration levels being too high.

In a new Briefing Note commissioned by Sustainable Population Australia, Dr Katharine Betts explains the discrepancy and offers guidance on which of the findings is most accurate.

According to Dr Betts, the significant difference in results between the ER and TAPRI polls has three explanations.

“First, the survey questions were different. The ER was asking respondents how they felt about what had happened in the past, TAPRI was asking what they wanted for the future. In addition, the ER question provided no background information, whereas TAPRI’s question provided contextual information about past levels of immigration and recent border closures,” Dr Betts says.

“Second, nearly one in five of the ER sample would have been non-voters, while all of the TAPRI sample were voters. Thus, the TAPRI results are a more accurate measure of the views of Australian voters; an important difference if policy is to be built around such information.

“Third, TAPRI weighted its survey data to accurately reflect graduate versus non-graduate educational status within the Australian population. The ER data do not appear to have been weighted for graduate/nongraduate status. This is an important difference,” says Dr Betts.

“Typically, graduates are rather more likely to respond to surveys. They are also more likely to vote Labor or Greens than are non-graduates, and to have different views on topics such as immigration. TAPRI analysis has found graduates to be more likely to favour higher immigration numbers than non-graduates.”

Dr Betts says that if the survey sample results are not adjusted to accurately reflect this graduate/ non-graduate distinction, then the results will be skewed towards the views of graduates.

National President of SPA, Ms Jenny Goldie, welcomed this analysis. “There are many surveys produced and they vary considerably in methodology and quality. The public are often at a loss to know what to believe,” Ms Goldie says.

“Dr Betts’ careful and in-depth analysis in this Briefing Note reinforces the confidence we hold in the accuracy and integrity of the TAPRI findings. They correspond closely to the abundant anecdotal evidence we see in letters to the editor and reader comments on newspaper web sites around the country. The message? People do not want to return to the pre-pandemic trends of extreme population growth generated by high levels of immigration.

“Despite heavy lobbying by employer groups to supercharge immigration, Australians understand that rapid population growth has not been in their interests. It is time to rethink Big Australia,” says Ms Goldie.

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