Implicit and Explicit Attitudes Towards Asylum Seekers
in Australia: Demographic and Ideological Correlates
School Psychology, Australian Catholic University
Objective: Attitudes toward asylum seekers that have been reported in Australia are negative and pervasive. To date, this body of literature
has explored only measured explicit responses. This article is the ﬁrst to explore their implicit counterpart.
Method: Two cross-sectional studies measured explicit and implicit attitudes towards asylum seekers. The ﬁrst study used a community sam-
ple (N = 183, M
= 24.98 years, 115 females), and the second used a sample of students (N = 106, M
= 22.75 years, 87 female). The
sample in Study 2 also responded to scales measuring levels of ideological orientations toward social dominance orientation (SDO), right-
wing authoritarianism (RWA), and principle of social justice.
Results: In Study 1, an exploration of demographic variables revealed that gender predicted explicit attitudes, but gender and religious afﬁlia-
tion predicted implicit attitudes. In Study 2, an exploration of ideological variables revealed that higher levels of SDO and RWA predict nega-
tive explicit attitudes, and macrojustice principles predict positive explicit attitudes, but only SDO predicts (negative) implicit attitudes.
Conclusions: The evidence presented reveals some discrepancies between factors that predict explicit and implicit attitudes toward this
socially vulnerable group, and the ﬁndings are interpreted as evidence for a dual-construct model of attitudes toward asylum seekers.
Key words: asylum seekers; ATAS; go/no-go association task; implicit attitudes; refugee.
What is already known on this topic
1 Attitudes towards asylum seekers in Australia are
negative and pervasive.
2 A range of research has revealed a variety of demo-
graphic and ideological correlates of these atti-
tudes, although they are yet to be considered in
3 These attitudes have been exclusively measured
using self-report (i.e., explicit measures).
What this paper adds
1 Explicit and implicit attitudes towards asylum see-
kers in Australia are different; this research pre-
sents the ﬁrst data on implicit attitudes towards
2 Demographic correlates of these attitudes have yet
to be considered in unison. This research demon-
strates that gender is the most important predictor,
with the relatively little considered factor of reli-
gious afﬁliation playing a large role.
3 Implicit attitudes seem to be related to demo-
graphic factors, speciﬁcally religion; this implies
that interventions for negative implicit attitudes
and negative explicit attitudes may need to be dif-
ferent. This has large implications for researchers
intervening with attitudes and for practitioners
working with asylum-claiming clients.
Policy pertaining to the treatment of asylum seekers con-
tinues to be a contentious issue in Australia. The Australian
population has reported increasingly negative attitudes toward
this group across the last several decades (Haslam & Holland,
2012), and evidence of the negative outcomes of Australian
policy on the matter are accumulating (Hocking, Kennedy, &
Sundram, 2015). While the general body of literature sur-
rounding this topical issue is growing, researchers have yet to
Correspondence: Joel Anderson, School Psychology, Australian Catholic
University, Melbourne Campus (St Patrick), Locked Bag 4115, VIC 3065,
Australia. Fax: +61 03 9953 3205.
Accepted for publication 5 May 2016
Australian Psychologist 53 (2018) 181–191
© 2016 The Australian Psychological Society