‘We will decide who comes to this country’: Attitudes towards immigration and voter behaviour at the 2013 federal election

Stream: Panel 24 - Australian Politics / Media & Politics: Elections, Electoral Systems and Political Behaviour
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 11.30 am – 1.00 pm


Immigration is a salient issue around the world. Parties across Europe have played on anti-immigration sentiment including a number of prominent cases including Austria, Denmark, Netherlands and France. Immigration also features prominently as a political issue in countries as diverse as the US, India and Singapore. Australia is no exception to these debates and, despite having a successful migration scheme and relatively few race-related issues compared to some other liberal democracies, immigration policy has had salience in recent Australian federal elections. In particular, a narrative has developed that suggests immigration has been used by the centre-right Coalition parties to detach working class voters from the centre-left Labor Party. An alternative perspective is that middle class voters — who are theoretically economically secure and able to vote on issues other than their economic self-interest, such as cultural matters — also decide their vote based on concerns about immigration. This paper tests these propositions by modelling survey and census data to identify the relationship between Australian voters’ attitudes towards immigration and partisan choice. We explore whether those voters that are more concerned about immigration vote differently to those who are less concerned, and if there are geographic and demographic patterns in this association. This helps us understand whether local unemployment, diversity and affluence influence the apparent importance of immigration as a political issues, and whether it is lower income suburban voters who are more liable to vote according to their attitudes towards immigration, or those on higher incomes in inner urban areas.


Shaun Ratcliff (Presenter), Monash University

Andrea Carson (Presenter), University of Melbourne

Marija Taflaga (Presenter), ANU