Attitudes towards refugees: The dark side of prejudice in Australia


School of Psychology and Counselling, Queensland University of Technology, Beams Road, Carseldine, Qld, 4034, Australia,


Australia has a significant intake of refugees each year. The majority enter through the humanitarian entrants program and a small percentage arrive seeking asylum. These processes have resulted in considerable debate, which has sometimes been associated with negative attitudes within the mainstream community. Research has indicated that realistic threat and symbolic threat are important components of the integrated threat theory for understanding opposition towards immigrants and refugees. Social desirability has also been indicated as potentially influential in the expression of negative attitudes. The current study examined the prevalence and correlates of negative attitudes towards refugees in an Australian sample. Participants consisted of 261 volunteer university students (119 men and 142 women). Participants were assessed on a prejudicial attitude measure, measures of symbolic and realistic threat and the Marlowe – Crowne Social Desirability Scale. The results indicated that more than half of the participants (59.8%) scored above the mid-point on prejudicial attitudes. Male participants reported less favourable attitudes towards refugees than female participants. Analysis revealed that both realistic and symbolic threats were influential in predicting prejudicial attitudes and, of these, realistic threat was the better predictor. The results are discussed in relation to the integrated threat theory of prejudice and in the context of addressing prejudice towards refugees in Australia.