Scanlon Foundation attacks immigration anger polls

By Leith van Onselen

If you want a textbook example of how desperate the ‘growth lobby’ has become in its support of mass immigration and a ‘Big Australia’, look no further than Andrew Markus’ disparaging remarks about the Australian Population Research Institute’s (APRI) recent survey showing that nearly three-quarters of Australian voters believe Australia already has enough people:

With 54% of voters wanting a reduction in Australia’s migrant intake:

Because most voters believe that high immigration is placing pressure on Australia’s livability:

Writing yesterday in The Conversation, Markus claimed that the APRI’s survey was biased and that people should instead look at the Scanlon Foundation’s surveys on attitudes towards immigration:

The survey employed a commercial panel, which yields a large number of respondents but is not a random sample of the population. Of those who were Australian voters, 54% indicated the number of immigrants “should be reduced”. The survey then went on to ask several additional questions – some of which were of the leading variety.

The survey informed respondents that:

From December 2005 to December 2016 Australia’s population grew from 20.5 million to 24.4 million; 62% of this growth was from net overseas migration.

It then asked in blunt terms:

Do you think Australia needs more people?

With this wording, the proportion with a negative view of immigration (that is, Australia does not need more people) jumped to 74%. This is a clear indication of the impact of question wording and context…

Almost at the same time as this survey, in June-July 2017, the Scanlon Foundation conducted two surveys. In its annual survey, which is interviewer-administered and is a random sample of the population, the Scanlon Foundation employed a question that has been used in Australian surveying for more than 50 years and hence provides scope to track trend of opinion over time. It asked:

What do you think of the number of immigrants accepted into Australia?

It found just 37% considered the intake to be “too high”, 40% “about right”, and 16% “too low”…

There have been several other probability-based surveys on attitudes to immigration in 2016 and 2017, including the Australian Election Study conducted by researchers at the Australian National University, a Morgan survey, and the annual Lowy Institute Poll.

None of these surveys obtained a majority agreeing that immigration is “too high”, much less concern at the level of 74%. The 2017 Lowy Institute Poll found 40% favour reduction.

It’s important to note from the outset that Andrew Markus receives funding grants from the Scanlon Foundation to conduct its annual surveys on attitudes towards migration. Peter Scanlon is also a key leader of Australia’s ‘growth lobby’. He is a major real estate investor and developer and has a clear vested interest in mass immigration, as explained by John Masanauskas:

MAJOR investor and former Elders executive Peter Scanlon hardly blinks when asked if his conspicuous support for a bigger population is also good for business.

Mr Scanlon, whose family wealth is estimated to be more than $600 million, has set up a foundation with the aim to create a larger and socially cohesive Australia.

It also happens that Mr Scanlon has extensive property development interests, which clearly benefit from immigration-fuelled high population growth.

“My primary driver in (setting up the foundation) is if we don’t have growth we are going to lose all our youth because the world is looking to train people around the world,” he explains. “Instead of having stagnant growth, we’re going to have a serious decline.”

Mr Scanlon believes that governments aren’t doing enough to sell the benefits of a bigger population so he has put his money where his mouth is…

Similar could be said about Westfield’s former head Frank Lowy (another vested interest), whereas the Roy Morgan survey cited above actually showed that most Australians want a ‘smaller Australia’.

Markus has also forgotten to mention a 2016 Essential Poll, which showed that 59% agreed that the level of immigration into Australia over the last 10 years has been too high.

Whereas another Essential Poll held in February 2018 had 50% of respondents rejecting the claim that “increasing migration creates economic growth by building demand” (versus 33% supporting this claim).

As to the APRI’s survey methods, these were explained clearly in the survey paper as well as in a subsequent blog post, which clearly explain the differences to the Scanlon Foundation’s surveys:

  • The TAPRI survey was completed online by a random sample of 2057 voters, (with quotas set with a 10% leeway, in line with ABS distributions for age, gender and location). The sample was drawn from a panel of 300,000. Thus, TAPRI used the same methodology as is now employed by Newspoll and by Essential Media.
  • The Scanlon poll was based on a telephone sample of 1,500 Australian residents drawn from the entire population of residents. It therefore included many respondents who are not citizens and therefore not eligible to vote.
  • There are significant issues concerning the reliability of telephone interviews when probing  sensitive issues. As the highly credible Pew Research polling organisation has indicated, respondents may be more likely to provide socially undesirable responses in the relative anonymity of the internet.
  • Scanlon found a much larger share of respondents favoured a reduction in immigration numbers in a different online survey that it funded which used methodology similar to that used by TAPRI. In the telephone survey 37% said that immigration was too high.  In contrast, 50% of this online sample agreed that the immigration intake was too high, rising to 53% when the findings were limited to those who were Australian citizens. This result is almost identical to the TAPRI finding.

So, APRI’s survey method is much more reliable than Scanlon’s because: 1) it gauges the opinions of Australian voters only (i.e. citizens), rather than migrant non-citizens that are ineligible to vote; and 2) it is conducted online where honest answers are far more likely.

I will also add that the Scanlon Foundation’s technique of asking people what they think of current immigration levels without telling them what those levels are, or what proportion of population growth is due to immigration, is hard to defend. Clearly it has produced more favourable responses, presumably because people are less prepared to say immigration is too high when they don’t know how high it is.

So who is biased here?

In any event, if Markus is so confident that Australian voters support mass immigration, let’s put it to a plebiscite at the next federal election and decide the issue once and for all.

[email protected]

Unconventional Economist
Latest posts by Unconventional Economist (see all)


  1. reusachtigeMEMBER

    I will always believe an industry survey like this Scanlon one over a “survey-house” type survey as the industry bodies understand the scope of their survey much better where as the survey-houses have no idea how to ask the questions due to lack of experience within the industry.

  2. Relevant Stakeholder

    Yesterday I posted a link to an ASTE report he paid Peter McDonald to conduct. 30 million by 2050 or 30/50.

    He also has an ongoing grant with ANU regarding immigration.

  3. Let them argue as much as they like about surveys. Bring on the pleb and lets see you argue against that.

    It is really the Trump effect. People who dislike mass immigration generally shut up because the left are so bloody loud about it.

    • You know I don’t get why reducing immigration needs to be assigned to the left or right? I view myself as a “leftie” and I want immigration greatly reduced. To me its a problem of those with the money/power are so quick and loud to shout out anyone willing to raise the issue. We should call them out and not broad sections of our peers who may actually agree with us.

      On that note this issue was raised at the Australian Logistics Council Forum a week ago where a panel was discussing the ALC’s final submission (Freight Doesn’t Vote) to the Inquiry into National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities. A common topic during the event was the impact of population growth on freight corridors and employment lands. Someone asked if immigration was considered during the process and the response was something to the effect of “no, though it can impact the types of workers you might hire (blue collar or software engineers)”

      • I agree with you, and like you I am also a lefty (by political compass standards). However I think it is important to distinguish between left and right supporters of immigration because the reasoning is so far apart. Left wants immigration for moral superiority, the right wants it for greed. The right will tell you without immigration the economy will fail, the left will tell you you are racist. Imo the left arguments are more damaging because they completely shut the conversation down, whereas you can actually debunk the economic arguments of the right.

      • SchillersMEMBER

        Many amongst the progressive left in favour of maintaining high immigration levels are financially invested in it. They often hold big mortgages in inner city electorates. The same areas that have seen huge increases in land prices due (mainly) to a combination of mass migration driving demand and rigid urban growth boundaries restricting the supply of affordable land. Both being key tenets of progressive left ideology. These are often well educated elites with a sense of superiority and entitlement. Many of them also own investment properties.
        They understand implicitly the laws of supply and demand and have a vested interest in maintaining high house prices.

      • You would think there are loads of wealthy lefty inner city multi-millionaires from property appreciation, however what befuddles me is they have managed to harness the support of a generation that has nothing and been sold the lie of densification, lattes, veganism and the ‘sharing economy’. Maybe the solution is cut FEE-HELP for arts courses?

  4. Elitists love to talk in honeyed terms about the “end of borders”, but they don’t really intend to abolish borders. All they are really doing is replacing “national borders” (over which the mass of ordinary citizens might have had some control) with “private borders”: elite private property.

    The Elite do not intend to rub shoulders with the plebs. They retreat to their private mansions, their private country estates, their private campuses, their private gated communities, all surrounded by private borders marked with “KEEP OUT. Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted!” signs.

    The Elite do not intend to stand, crushed cheek-to-sweaty-cheek with the prols on inadequate and overcrowded public transport. They whizz from their private mansions to their private offices in private cars (often along private roads which have been tolled or “road-priced” out of the reach of the masses.)

    And from behind their private borders they peer out and sermonise piously on the supposed intolerance of those outside!

    On all fronts the trend is the same: the end of the 20th Century ideal of public rights – over which the citizens used to have some say – and their alienation to elite private interests.

    • Kormanator_T800

      Very true.

      Look at Lucy Turnbull’s growth plans for Sydney. Nothing in the wealthy harbourside east where she lives or Mosman. Everyone is out west, far away from the elites!

  5. have think tanks ever produced anything that isnt misinformation? why are they allowed to exist

  6. Creaking infrastructure and sitting in traffic 4 hours a day will change the minds of even the hard left.

  7. Too late. Misinformation from the likes of Scanlon relies on plausibility. We have moved beyond that point now.
    Political leadership is starting to smell reality on this issue and it is coming at them like a freight train in the form of the next election.

    • Mining BoganMEMBER

      Misinformation eh?

      Why, just this morning I heard a Big Straya type say that the lower the immigration and control population numbers people were advocating a one child policy. Kinda struck me as desperation.

  8. bolstroodMEMBER

    Labor, inadvertantly let the cat out of the bag with their Franking credits policy.
    The over riding reason of the need to abolish this legislation is that “it is no longer affordable.”
    They do not say why it is unaffordable , but an increase of 6 miilion extra people jammed into Australia in the17 years that the franking credits policy has been around explains it perfectly.
    The pie is the same size , so portions must be reduced in size.
    I am deeply puzzled as to why , after 5 years to develop policies, Shorten and Bowen are unable to adequately explain them, or to have crafted relief options for those less than rich retirees who will be hit hard.
    Why they would release this half baked policy less than a week out from 2 important elections leaves me completely boggled.
    If we can no longer afford these policies why not extract the taxes owing from the mega rich multi National Corporations that are gouging our one off resources without paying any tax? Why not fight Turnbulls Tax cuts to big business, which are on the electorates noses, by raising taxes on Corporations …?
    OH ,I forgot, Gillard tried that and was whipped back into her kennel.
    So the only option is to go after retirees , and where does it go from there? Super? Pensions , Centrelink payments , Bank depositors , Bail ins ?

  9. Interesting that 68% of Greens said no to “Australia needs more people”. Surprising schism there between Greens policy and their voters.

      • No way Green voters are going to go to PHON. Hell would freeze over first. Sustainable Australia does not have the brand recognition yet. Greens policy makers need to realise that adding 1 million to the population every 3 years is not “green”, and leads to absurd pollution problems, urban sprawl, and associated defacing of the environment. Take the V/Line train through the ugliness of Tarneit and Wyndham Vale in Melbourne, and tell me that is “Green”. The population has moved on from the false “reducing immigration = racist” argument. You could see it on the ABC’s Q&A show on. Monday. All major parties are way behind their voter base on this issue.

      • This environmentalist will be voting ON and suggest anyone who cares about this country, it’s inhabitants, and the environment do the same.

    • A few years ago I had a conversation with a couple of probably retired (pretty old) Greens handing out how to vote cards on an election day and got into a discussion about population growth. They were surprised when I mentioned the Greens open border policy and understood that the environment and our chances of helping the underprivileged (here, not the world’s) would suffer with a continuing large influx of people. Struck me that lots of these Greens (especially the older ones) have no idea what their party has become since the world socialist view of resource distribution took over from the environment as their raison d’être.

    • bolstroodMEMBER

      I wrote to all 10 Greens Fed Parliamentarians about Mass Immigration.
      6 replied with virtually word for word responses about taking a Global view on immigration .
      I did not renew my membership.

      • I agree with you and am in the same boat. More particularly, how can siding with the Libs to block the West Gate tunnel possibly be green? No tunnel combined with mass immigration = more pollution and congestion. We might build a 20-car double-deck solar powered MAGLEV that gets to Geelong in 10 minutes, but that will be next century. And it will still be held up by the old Warrnambool clunker.

    • bolstroodMEMBER

      ” Interesting that 68% of Greens (members?) said no to Australia needs more people…”
      If that is Greens members , then there is a major issue re Grass Roots Democracy, the bedrock of the Greens political philosophy.
      Why are not the grass roots members being heard ?
      I suspect that at the Federal Parliamentry Greens have become a “Professional Political Party ” , and like all such,have decided that they know better than the members and that the delegate system and the State Delegates Councils are not functioning properly due to factional warfare, and are not insisting the feds adhere to GRD

    • drsmithyMEMBER

      Surprising schism there between Greens policy and their voters.

      Greens _policy_ is for environmentally sustainable levels of immigration.

      Some people like to take their lack of vehement opposition to high immigration, mix in a good helping of right-wing paranoia about “cultural marxism”, etc, and conclude they are actually advocates of it.

      • 99.9% of people I know that want a lower population growth never mention culture. You are making things up in a dishonest attempt to shut a debate down. Sorry, it’s not working anymore. I told you this was coming years ago.

      • bolstroodMEMBER

        The 6 sitting Greens Parliamentarians who responded to my emails did not mention sustainable levels of immigration .
        They talked about Australia taking it’s fair share of global population.
        If 68 % of Greens (members?) are in favour of limiting immigration why is this not reflected in Greens policy?
        The Australian Democrats origionally had Grass roots democracy , with members voting on issues and policy, but dropped it when they got to 10 mp’s
        Their decline started from that point.

  10. Fair comment. Just curious though (this is not a leading question) do you think 1 million people mostly moving into outer Sydney and Melbourne suburbs every 3 years is an environmentally sustainable level of immigration ? If not, then shouldn’t the Greens be more active in protesting this ?

    • No. Contrary to every ecologist on earth, the Greens see zero correlation between Australia’s population and the environment. That would be racist.