In September, Essential Research published the results of a poll that suggested almost half of Australians wanted to see Muslim immigration banned, prompting an outcry. Andrew Bunn reflects on that decision.
We were prompted to explore public sentiment about Muslim immigration following the recent election of Pauline Hanson and other One Nation candidates to the Senate. We wanted to find out to what extent their views on immigration were shared by the general population. Publication of the poll’s results generated a greater reaction from both the media and public than probably any of the public polling we have done over the past nine years.
In the poll, we asked a number of questions about both Muslim immigration and attitudes to Pauline Hanson. It is an issue we had researched previously but in the more general context of immigration and refugees.
The question we asked this time was direct and unambiguous: ‘Would you support or oppose a ban on Muslim immigration to Australia?’
When the answer came back – 49 per cent said ‘support’, 40 per cent said ‘oppose’ and 11 per cent said ‘don’t know’ – we went ‘oh shit’. So we retested it. We ran the same question again the following week and the result was almost identical. Then we had to consider what to do with the findings. Was it in the public interest to publish such a disturbing result? Couldn’t we just ignore it and hope it might go away?
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Andrew Bunn, Research Director, Essential Research