Ask Australians whether they are better off as a result of the mining boom and the largest chunk says yes. But another chunk - almost as big - aren't sure, and a substantial proportion - one in four - say the boom has made them worse off.

The findings of a nationally-representative poll conducted by UMR research are being used to bolster the case for supporting small miners. An overwhelming two thirds of those surveyed say the industry is too heavily dominated by big multinationals.

Men are more likely than women to believe the mining boom has made them better off, and older Australians more likely than younger ones. Education made a striking difference, with 49 per cent of those with a university degree believing mining had helped compared with only 31 per cent with no post-school qualification.

There were also surprising differences between the mining states. 52 per cent of West Australians felt mining was improving their lot compared to only 31 per cent of Queenslanders. The Queensland result was well below the 42 per cent approval ratings in NSW and Victoria.

Overall 41 per cent of Australians believed the boom was making them better off, 26 per cent felt it was harming them and 36 per cent were unsure.

Perth mining consultant David Utting who commissioned the research says only 13 per cent of those surveyed felt conditions were fair for smaller and newer players. 66 per cent felt it was too dominated by multinationals.

“I am surprised by the depth of feeling on this issue but Australians have always had a soft spot for the underdog,” he told BusinessDay. “The message is clear that more should be more done to encourage and support the junior end of the market. Smaller companies can't afford to build their own ports or rail lines by themselves.”

One third of those surveyed thought the boom had peaked. Almost one half expected it continue.