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The role of false beliefs in the community's and the federal government's attitudes toward Australian asylum seekers

Pedersen, A., Watt, S. and Hansen, S. (2006) The role of false beliefs in the community's and the federal government's attitudes toward Australian asylum seekers. Australian Journal of Social Issues, 41 (1). pp. 105-124.

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Abstract

Previous quantitative research has found that people who report negative attitudes toward asylum seekers also tend to report the acceptance of information that is factually incorrect (negative 'false beliefs'). In the present study, we were interested in matching spontaneously generated false beliefs with negative attitudes toward asylum seekers, and in examining the presence of such beliefs in politicians' public statements. To do this, we analysed qualitative data collected from 602 Western Australian participants. Three false beliefs were frequently cited ('boat people are queue jumpers', 'asylum seekers are illegal' and 'people who arrive unauthorised are not genuine refugees'). As predicted, the total number of false beliefs significantly correlated with negative attitudes. The same beliefs were also identified in statements made by Federal Government representatives. Our results have important practical implications. If false beliefs about asylum seekers can be identified and corrected, this may have a significant effect on changing these attitudes in a positive direction.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Psychology
Publisher: Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and the Australian Social Policy Association (ASPA)
Copyright: Australian Council of Social Service
Publishers Website: http://www.aspa.org.au/links.html
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/5563
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