A sobering reminder of attitudes towards refugees in two major Western nations. The fear and unease with asylum seekers is fanned by politicians and commentators who want people to believe the world is orderly and queues should be formed when fleeing from persecution:
An election‐campaign survey commissioned by the US Studies Centre in conjunction with Stanford University has found that Australians are more concerned about illegal immigration than those in the United States.
The survey canvassed the attitudes of Australians and Americans towards illegal immigrants, immigration generally, and the strengths and weaknesses of the respective party policies. It was carried out by US‐based polling firm YouGov/Polimetrix , with Australian polling occurring during the first week of the current federal election campaign between July 14 and 22, and American polling done in February 2010.
According to the results:
- 76 per cent of Australians believe that increasing numbers of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants are an important problem for the country whereas in the US, where the number of illegal immigrants in 2009 was estimated by the US Department of Homeland Security at nearly 11 million, 71 per cent rate it as important.
- 69 per cent of Australian respondents agree that Australia “is taking too many immigrants”, as compared to 62 per cent of their American counterparts.
- Among those who consider asylum seekers as “one of the most important issues facing Australia”, 47 per cent indicated they will vote for the Coalition and 37 per cent for the ALP.
- Labor leads the Coalition (48‐25 per cent) only amongst those who rate immigration as “not all that important”.
Chief executive officer of the US Studies Centre, Professor Geoffrey Garrett says differences in the demography of Australia and the US may help explain the variations between the two country’s attitudes to immigration and asylum seekers.
“In the US, most migrants in the country without legal visas are Latinos, joining what is America’s largest ethnic group that is largely sympathetic with their plight. There is no similar ethnic base in Australia for a more compassionate approach for asylum seekers.”