Mapping Social Cohesion study

The Scanlon Foundation Research Institute's Mapping Social Cohesion study is the pre-eminent source of information on social cohesion in Australia. Running since 2007 and with surveys of the Australian population conducted annually since 2009, the study provides a rich and long-running set of data on Australians' attitudes to social cohesion, immigration, multiculturalism, and a range of other topical issues.

The Mapping Social Cohesion study has been led since its inception by Professor Andrew Markus. With his retirement in 2022, a partnership has been established between the Scanlon Foundation Research Institute and the ANU to continue Professor Markus' legacy. Through this partnership, stewardship of the project has shifted to the ANU and ASCEND, led by Dr James O'Donnell.

Mapping Social Cohesion 2022 marks the first study and report delivered under the new partnership. The report comes at a critical time for social cohesion in Australia and the world as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic but with new global challenges arising from geopolitical conflict, economic pressures, renewed emphasis on social and economic inequalities and sharply divided attitudes to social and political issues.

The 2022 Mapping Social Cohesion study adds to an impressive and growing body of research in this field. The 2022 survey was the sixteenth survey conducted in the Mapping Social Cohesion series and the largest in its history.More than 7,000 people from the Social Research Centre's Life in Australia panel were invited to take part, with 78% or almost 5,800 people completing the survey. Conducted in July 2022, the survey contained more than 90 items related to social cohesion and related issues. The survey was complemented by rich qualitative information on the lived experiences of communities, derived from in-depth interviews with people working in communities.

Mapping Social Cohesion 2022 provides critical, near real-time information on the state of social cohesion in Australia. The results indicate that cohesion in Australia is at a critical juncture. Remarkably, cohesion increased during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, reflecting the way in which people pulled together during the crisis and responded positively to state and Federal government efforts to protect our health and well-being. However, cohesion has been declining since 2020, marked by a declining sense of national belonging, renewed concern over social and economic inequalities and increasing financial and cost-of-living pressures.

Encouragingly though, there is substantial reason for optimism. Australians are now more trusting of each other and in government than they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, better connected to their neighbourhoods, less likely to hold negative attitudes towards people of different religious faiths and migrant backgrounds and more likely to believe in the benefits of multiculturalism and ethnic diversity. These strengths represent valuable assets in weathering current geopolitical turbulence in Australia and around the world and providing a platform for strengthening social cohesion in future.

The 2023 study will be in the field in the middle of the year, with the results and final report launched towards the end of 2023.

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