The Scanlon Foundation has been researching social cohesion in Australia since 2007.
The research study, conducted between June and July in 2017, consisted of a randomly sampled national survey (1,500 respondents) and two online surveys (2,702 respondents). The national survey included questions to calculate the Scanlon–Monash Index (SMI) of social cohesion, which is designed to highlight shifts in opinion. The SMI measures social cohesion across five domains:
The 2017 research found that social cohesion had decreased 0.8 index points since the previous year, recording the lowest SMI score since 2013 with decreases across all domains except for political participation.
Migration is a key focus of the research. When comparing results from 2007 and 2017, the proportion of respondents reporting that the number of immigrants accepted into Australia was “about right” or “too low” has remained consistent at 56% and 53% respectively.
However, it was also found that reported experiences of discrimination on the basis of skin colour, ethnic origin or religion have more than doubled from 9% in 2007 to 20% in 2017. Further, while the majority of survey respondents (85%) were supportive of multiculturalism, the report identified a high level of negative opinion towards Muslims relative to other faith groups. The 2017 survey found 25% of respondents having a negative or strongly negative personal attitude towards Muslims, compared with around 4.5% of respondents reporting negative attitudes towards Christians or Buddhists.