Australia's attitudes unveiled – from religion to relationships

Study shows we are anti Islam, pro abortion and gender equality

Australians have one of the most negative attitudes towards Islam in the world, according to a new study tracking sentiments towards the world’s major religions across 23 countries.

The annual study YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project ­– a joint project between YouGov, the University of Cambridge and The Guardian ­– also explored attitudes towards immigration, abortion, same-sex relationships and other cultural beliefs. The 2019 study surveyed over 25,000 people across Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia throughout February and March, including 1006 Australians.

It found that over half of Australians (51 per cent) feel negatively about Islam, with only 10 per cent seeing this religion in a positive light. This makes Australia “more negative than 17 of the other 22 countries surveyed.” Significantly, 37 per cent said they were “very unfavourable” towards Islam, which was the most negative response available and the most common response. The study also revealed a correlation between anti-Islam sentiment and age, with those aged over 45 feeling more negative towards the religion than younger age groups.

In contrast, 45 per cent of Australians were positive towards Christianity, with only 21 per cent seeing it unfavourably. Christianity ranked above Buddhism in positive perceptions among Australians, however there were less negative sentiments towards Buddhism.

Somewhat surprisingly, almost half of those surveyed admitted to having “very few” or no close friends of a different ethnic background.

Ambivalence towards Judaism prevailed, with almost 60 per cent of Australians saying their feelings towards the religion were “neither favourable nor unfavourable” or “don’t know”. Only 18 per cent were favourable to Judaism, which was almost equivalent to those who felt negatively about it, at 20 per cent.

Somewhat surprisingly, almost half of those surveyed admitted to having “very few” or no close friends of a different ethnic background. However, when asked “what makes someone ‘truly’ Australian”, we ranked second highest (below Sweden) for not caring about whether or not someone was born in Australia.

On other social issues, the majority of Australians polled (64 per cent) were in support of abortion. Most (67 per cent) were also in favour of same-sex relationships, with half of those surveyed believing it is acceptable for “someone to identify as a different gender to the one they were assigned at birth.” Again, those over 55 showed less support for same-sex relationships than younger demographics.

An overwhelming majority of Australians – 80 per cent – believe that discrimination against women still exists in our society, showing a split between left and right wing voters around whether the women’s rights movement “had gone too far” – half of Coalition voters said it had, compared to only a quarter of Labor voters.

Further results from the 2019 study are being published in a Guardian series called “The new populism“.