Flagging racism?

People who fly Australian flags on their cars have been found to be more racist than those who choose not to, new research shows.

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University of Western Australia sociologist and anthropologist Professor Farida Fozdar surveyed 513 people at last year's Australia Day fireworks in Perth and found one in five had attached the flags to their cars.

Of those who had, 43 per cent believed the White Australia Policy had saved Australia from many of the problems experienced overseas while only 25 per cent without flags agreed. Only 39 per cent of those with flags held positive views of Aboriginal people (compared to 47per cent non-flaggers), only 19per cent liked Muslim Australians (compared to 26 per cent non-flaggers) and 27 per cent felt positive towards Asian Australians (compared to 48 per cent non-flaggers).

Professor Fozdar said there was no clear link between education, gender, ethnicity, citizenship, voting patterns or income with flag flying.

But the 10 to 20 per cent difference in views between motorists with flags and those without was too large and consistent to be a coincidence.

She and her team asked the survey participants why they chose to fly the flag and found 88 per cent thought it was a patriotic step.

Others, including those without flags, said it was because of marketing and cheap availability of the accessories or the pressure of being seen as unpatriotic if you did not join in the trend. Some thought it was a response to a loss of culture.

''Many felt strongly patriotic about it - and for some, I guess this was quite a racist or exclusionary type of patriotism. But in general it wasn't a particularly conscious decision for most people,'' Professor Fozdur said.