Australians and population

Australians don't think that Australia has a population problem, but they do think the world does, according to our recent research into Australians and attitudes to population growth.

We conducted a survey of a virtual focus group of 1,222 respondents and found that 45% thought Australia's population should be larger than it is, 38% thought it was just right, and only 13% thought it should be smaller. This is similar to other survey results of which we are aware.

In terms of global population 57% agree that it is too high, while only 21% disagree.

The survey was sponsored by an On Line Opinion reader who believes world and Australian population should be smaller.

The qualitative responses showed that most respondents were happy to accept a larger Australian population as long as appropriate measures had been taken to ensure that we had access to resources like water and there was sufficient infrastructure in place. These were also concerns for those who favoured the status quo. Those who wanted a decrease in population were mostly driven by environmental concerns, and those who favoured a much larger country had the economy at heart.

If a government were to decide to decrease population growth in Australia, the most popular option would be to remove the baby bonus, an option with just over fifty percent support. Decreasing immigration also had support, although slightly more people opposed this than supported it. None of the other policies floated was popular at all, including making citizenship harder, restricting public funding for fertility treatment, removing the family tax benefit, or removing the single parent pension.

It seems fairly clear from this analysis that the public will accept a continued upward drift in Australia's population, particularly if governments plan for it. There are certainly no policy “silver bullets” that people would accept as reasonable policies to decrease the population, and they wouldn't accept the proposition that the population should decrease in the first place.

With global population growth there is a reasonable degree of agreement on the principal reason for it being too high which is put down to poverty. (Although some also point out that if societies weren't wealthier and and able to support larger populations as a result, there wouldn't necessarily be global population growth).

Twenty-one percent ascribe the growth to lack of knowledge of contraception. While in some cases there is a link between contraception and religion, only around ten percent of the sample would attribute population growth to religious belief.

Some six percent believe that the increase in global population is due to the lack of a social welfare net, a similar number to those who believe it is due to a lack of education, which is also linked to the idea that education needs to be directed at women, and towards greater gender equity.

Slightly more than fifty percent of the sample agree that Australia has a role to play in curbing international population growth. Greens, Independent and Labor voters are most likely to agree with this. Liberals and Undecided voters are the least sure.

There is little agreement over how Australia might play its role beyond providing reproductive education, agricultural training and research. Policies such as encouraging economic restructuring in overseas countries or increasing trade or foreign aid were not popular. Trade sanctions were almost universally disapproved. Again a number of people nominated education under the category of other, but it was not a formal option so we don't have a hard count on these responses.

Some respondents took exception to some of the options being offered to them, but few were able to suggest other potentially viable policies.

A report was compiled from the figures and can be downloaded by clicking here.

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0 #1 encouraging economic restructuring indoctorpat 2011-10-04 10:46
encouraging economic restructuring in overseas countries

Does this mean like the American's are doing in Iraq? I can't imagine why it wouldn't be popular.
0 #2 It could be of interest to see if age hagreybeard 2011-10-04 14:48
It could be of interest to see if age has an effect on opinion on the issue of Australia's population. I have a theory that many of us who remember what Australia used to be like 50 years ago are more likely to want a lower population.
0 #3 Less than 46% believe that Australia shoGary Dean 2011-10-04 17:33
Less than 46% believe that Australia should increase in population, interesting.
0 #4 More than half of the respondents do notJoy R 2011-10-05 11:11
More than half of the respondents do not want a larger population. If this survey was much larger I believe that that percentage would be larger. The rapid growth that we have experienced in recent years has forced a fiscal infrastructure gap that has caused a decline in health, education and other services. We need a moratorium on population growth to allow for proper infrastructure planning and implementation instead of our current crisis management by state governments.
0 #5 the business model demands market expansrobert golledge 2011-10-05 13:24
the business model demands market the migrant intake is expanded to accomodate....a very flawed model indeed.
0 #6 People are misled by the drivers of popuval Yule 2011-10-05 20:08
People are misled by the drivers of population who want a bigger market and labor force.
Our standard of living must go down if we have a bigger population, with less water and oil, fewer resources, food sources, countryside, farmland and more congestion and shortages.