The polling that drives dog whistle politics … and may cure them

Mar 1, 2011

First published on The Drum: 01/03/2011

Here is the polling that is driving Scott Morrison’s subterranean attack on Muslims, confirmation that a majority of Australians are concerned about their numbers.

For too long conservative blowhards like Morrison have been running agendas that directly reference these findings but because they have remained hidden in a desk drawer they are merely debating an issue.

After much soul-searching, Essential has decided to commit an act of political interruption. We debated whether it was worth giving voice to these attitudes long and hard, but we believe getting this stuff out in the open is the only way to silence the dog whistle.

Q. Are you concerned about the number of Muslim people in Australia?

Total Vote Labor Vote Lib/Nat Vote Greens
Total concerned 57% 50% 69% 32%
Total not concerned 38% 46% 28% 68%
Very Concerned 28% 21% 37% 12%
Somewhat concerned 29% 29% 32% 20%
Not very concerned 21% 23% 19% 27%
Not at all concerned 17% 23% 9% 41%
Don’t know/Refused 5% 4% 2%

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Muslim Migrants

Feb 28, 2011

Q. In your view, should the Australian government exclude Muslims from our migrant intake?
(Question commissioned by Network Ten)

Total Vote Labor Vote Lib/Nat Vote Greens Men Women Aged 18-34 Aged 35-44 Aged 55+
Yes 25% 21% 33% 8% 26% 25% 19% 26% 31%
No 55% 62% 49% 83% 55% 54% 56% 57% 49%
Don’t know/Refused 20% 17% 18% 8% 19% 21% 25% 17% 20%

25% of respondents believed that the Australian government should exclude Muslims from our migrant intake and 55% disagreed. Those most likely to think Muslims should be excluded from our migration intake were Liberal/National voters (33%) and people aged 55+ (31%).

Download the Network Ten Essential Question of the Week (1.1 MB pdf)

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Concern about Muslims (pre information)

Feb 28, 2011

Q. Are you concerned about the number of Muslim people in Australia?

Total Vote Labor Vote Lib/Nat Vote Greens
Total concerned 57% 50% 69% 32%
Total not concerned 38% 46% 28% 68%
Very Concerned 28% 21% 37% 12%
Somewhat concerned 29% 29% 32% 20%
Not very concerned 21% 23% 19% 27%
Not at all concerned 17% 23% 9% 41%
Don’t know/Refused 5% 4% 2%

57% were very or somewhat concerned about the number of Muslim people in Australia while 38% were not very or not at all concerned. Concern is higher among Liberal/National voters (69%) and lower among Greens voters (32%).  72% of people aged 55+ say they are concerned.

Level of concern is related to perceptions of the number of Muslim people in Australia. The table below shows that those who think there are higher numbers of Muslims in Australia are much more likely to be concerned.

Estimated % Muslims in Australia
Total 1-2% 3-5% 6-10% Over 10%
Total concerned 57% 44% 52% 68% 79%
Total not concerned 38% 54% 46% 31% 19%

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Fastest Growing Religion

Feb 28, 2011

Q. Which of the following religions do you think has grown the fastest in Australia during the 10 years between 1996 and 2006, when the last national census was taken?


Total Vote Labor Vote Lib/Nat Vote Greens
Christianity (including Catholic, Uniting Church, Anglican, etc) 8% 7% 11% 7%
Hinduism 3% 2% 3% 4%
Islam (Muslim) 57% 58% 64% 50%
Buddhism 5% 3% 4% 11%
Judaism (Jewish) * 1%
Don’t know/Refuse 27% 29% 19% 27%


57% believe that Islam is the fastest growing religion in Australia. This perception is broadly similar across all age/gender groups – although a little higher for Liberal/National voters (64%) and those aged 55+ (65%).

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Muslims in Australia

Feb 28, 2011

Q. What percentage of Australian residents do you think are Muslim?

Total Vote Labor Vote Lib/Nat Vote Greens
1% 6% 6% 7% 8%
2% 11% 10% 14% 9%
3-5% 26% 26% 25% 37%
6-10% 20% 19% 22% 18%
More than 10% 19% 20% 19% 17%
Don’t know 18% 20% 13% 11%

17% think that Muslims make up 1-2% of Australia’s population, 26% think they make up 3-5% and 39% think it is over 5%. The actual figure is 1.7% – meaning 65% have over-estimated the number of Muslims in Australia.

There were only minor differences between age, gender and voter groups.

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Concern about Muslims (post information)

Feb 28, 2011

Q. The 2006 Census figures show that in fact the fastest growing religions in Australia are Hinduism, Buddhism and then Islam.   Presently, only 1.71% of the Australian population identifies as Muslim.  In light of this information, how concerned are you about the number of Muslim people in Australia?

Total Vote Labor Vote Lib/Nat Vote Greens
Total concerned 50% 43% 62% 22%
Total not concerned 45% 54% 35% 76%
Very Concerned 22% 18% 29% 11%
Somewhat concerned 28% 25% 33% 11%
Not very concerned 26% 27% 24% 32%
Not at all concerned 19% 27% 11% 44%
Don’t know 5% 4% 4% 1%

After being given some information about the number of Muslims in Australia, 50% said they were still very/somewhat concerned and 45% said they were not very or not at all concerned. This represents a 7% fall in level of concern from the question asked before this information was given to respondents.

All demographic and voter groups showed a similar fall in level of concern.

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