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Quadrant, 1981, 25, (1-2), 60-62.

The New Australian Nationalism

John J. Ray

The signs of the new Australian national pride are all about us. We have the government-backed "Advance Australia" advertising campaign on T.V. We have patriotic themes used in commercial advertising. We had that incredible outpouring of national sentiment from Australia's entertainers at the May 27 1980 Royal Charity Concert at the Sydney Opera House. We had a 1980 Federal election campaign in which both parties featured the Australian flag as a backdrop with a frequency which once would have characterised only Australia's neo-Nazis. Nor is this pride only national. In Sydney, "We love you Sydney" themes have been used both to promote radio stations and to sell newspapers. No one yet has used national pride to sell soap but the day does nonetheless seem not too far away when patriotism could rival sex as a means of making advertising campaigns attractive.

To the social scientist, this whole thing is a rather bemusing phenomenon. One must assume that good commercial dollars are not being poured into these campaigns unless they are getting results. We must conclude that we are indeed in the midst of a great upwelling of Australian national pride. Yet the memories of the second world war still incline one to think of nationalism as something that was defeated with the Nazis ("Nazi" was simply a German abbreviation for "Nationalist"). One tends to think in terms of Right-wing nationalism versus Communist internationalism. Are these categories still relevant? Are we in the throes of a Fascist renaissance?

At first sight, it would seem not. The first Australian government to make political capital out of Australian nationalism in recent times was without a doubt the Whitlam Labor government - and Labor is socialist, not Fascist. But on second thoughts we have to realise that Hitler too started out a socialist. The full name of Hitler's party was: Nazional Sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter Partei - or National Socialist German Worker's Party. A knowledge of history is not very reassuring.

Yet to associate the current phenomenon with fascism seems absurd. It is sentimental rather than aggressive and takes place in a political atmosphere where cutting back big government seems to be much more popular than loyalty to the state. Perhaps most importantly, the phenomenon seems to be a rather universal one - common to all political parties rather than politically polarized.

Even in the immediate post-war years, of course, it was never possible totally to dismiss patriotism. In their epochal work on the Fascist personality, Adorno et al. (1) did seem to want to include patriotism in the whole range of purportedly. covarying traits that went to make up that personality. They did seem to want to see it as conservative, racist, authoritarian etc. They even used in their research a separate "patriotism" sub-scale to measure aspects of the Fascist personality. In the end, however, they had to offer the caveat that by "patriotism" they did not mean "love of country". Rather they meant "blind" love of country. Fascist patriotism was "blind".

Convenient though this distinction might be, it tells us little of patriotism in general. Is patriotism generally of the (bad) kind described by Adorno et al as "blind" or is it generally of the (good) kind described by them as "genuine"? Furthermore, how do we distinguish between the two? What seems blind to me may seem very sensible even to the vast majority of the population. I think that dislike of Asians is blind yet ninety-four per cent of the British population did not want in Britain those Asians expelled by Amin ( 2). It is very common for one to see one's political opponents as blind but it is hard to convince those opponents themselves that this is anything but a value judgment. Regrettably, then, any attempt to segregate types of patriotism must be highly arbitrary and, as such, probably not acceptable in any research with pretensions to objectivity. Clearly, then, we do need some picture of the patriot in general.

Much of our thinking on patriotism has probably been clouded by the too-wide acceptance of the term "ethnocentrism". Much used by Adorno et al, this term embodies the view that dislike of other racial groups is the other side of the coin (as it were) to liking for one's own group. One rejects others because one values the ways of one's own group so highly. Thus to define ethnocentrism as Adorno et al do is in fact to accept a theory - a theory that need not in fact be true at all. It would be equally conceivable that those who thought highly of their own group did so out of a general benevolence or a general love of folkways. Conversely, those who reject members of other groups might also be alienated from their own group. To say that love of one's own group generally goes with rejection of other groups is then a claim in need of proof. It cannot be slipped in as part of a definition.

From this starting point Ray (3) in fact carried out a study that was designed from the beginning to separate love of one's own country and culture from attitude to other races and cultures. It was found that the Australian patriot showed no particular prejudice at all against Jews or blacks. He was however slightly more intolerant of Southern European immigrants (Italians, Greeks etc.). Obviously, then, this ran counter to the Adorno et al thesis. Patriots did not in general automatically dislike any outgroup. If anything, it was just people who spoke little English that they disliked. Being locally born, Australian blacks do speak colloquial Australian English with very few exceptions.

It must be concluded then that our existing theories have little to offer in explaining the current resurgence of Australian patriotism. It is a phenomenon that requires study in its own right before we can draw any conclusions about it.

The social scientist's normal method of carrying out such a study would include as a first step a survey or poll in which one would be seeking the correlates of the attribute. One would try to find out what sort of people are particularly patriotic. If it is (say) young people who turn out to be most patriotic, this might then lead us to theorize that (say) patriotism is a means of resolving adolescent identity crises. In the present case, however, this strategy is made rather unpromising by the fact that patriotism seems so widespread. If everybody is patriotic, there is little hope of picking out particular subgroups as the source of the sentiment. In technical terms, any correlations found would be greatly attenuated.

It is therefore a useful resolution of this difficulty that some data relevant to our enquiry are available from a survey conducted in 1974. This survey did include the scale (list of questions) of Australian patriotism already alluded to together with a wide variety of scales to measure other psychological traits and attitude constellations. Because the survey was done in the middle of the Whitlam years, it seems reasonable to suppose that the upsurge of patriotism had not at that time peaked - that the phenomenon was still much less than universal. Some differentiation of people in terms of their patriotism could then still be hoped for.

The sample was an Australia-wide commercial mail poll - the 1974 "Social Barometer" of the Roy Morgan organization. As such it was very similar to the 1973 version of the same poll which was described in some detail previously (7). Briefly, over 4,600 completed questionnaires were returned giving a sample with demographic characteristics very similar to the Australian population as a whole. Such a large sample was required to enable subsections of the population proportionately small in numbers to be studied separately. As no such partitions were planned on the present occasion, however, a sub-sample of 200 was randomly selected for analysis. With an N of 200, correlations explaining as little as 2% of the variance in any attribute will be shown as statistically significant. Effects smaller than this were not thought important.

The questions forming the Attitude to Australia (patriotism) scale are given in Table 1. The scale was in fact slightly revised for this survey and is as such regrettably not exactly comparable with the scale used in the previous study reported above. Two major constructs with which this scale was correlated were authoritarianism and conservatism. Because of Lipset's (4) argument that economic conservatism and social conservatism are fundamentally differently determined, two scales were used to measure these two types of conservatism. Both were similar to those used in Ray & Wilson (5). Authoritarianism was measured by the Ray (6) "balanced 'F' scale" and there were also other scales designed to measure a variety of constructs such as consumerism, environmentalism, misanthropy, family-orientation and experience-seeking.


The items of the Australian Patriotism scale.

1 Australia is the lucky country
2 Australians are crude and uncultured
3 Most of what is good in Australia has been borrowed from overseas
4 Not many other countries have the advantages Australia has
5 If I ever left Australia I'd always want to come back
6 The basic trouble with Australians is their lack of imagination, and stick-in-the-mud attitudes
7 Anyone who wants to get on has to go overseas rather than stay in Australia
8 Australia always seems to be at least five years behind anywhere else
9 Australia has one of the best climates in the world 10 Australia must be a good place or all the migrants wouldn't want to come here
11 The Australian way of doing things is hard to beat

The reliabilities (coefficient alpha) of the various scales were as follows: Social conservatism .84, Economic conservatism .84, Consumer consciousness .53, Environmentalism .68, Australian patriotism .73, Authoritarianism .80, Misanthropy .57, Frugality .76, Family orientation .81, Sensation-seeking .78, Hedonism .73, Upward mobility .71, Fashion consciousness .72, Sociability .84, Impulsiveness .81, Social desirability .70, Success orientation .76, Task orientation .86. It may be noted that the slight revision of the Australian patriotism scale has improved the reliability (formerly .64).

Patriots were found to be more likely to be conservative on social issues (r= .21) but were unpolarized on economic issues (.08). Other issues on which they were unpolarized were consumerism, family orientation, hedonism as measured by the Wilson 8) scale, upward mobility, fashion consciousness, impulsiveness (9), social desirability set (10), success-orientation and task orientation. When asked to rate themselves on the two traits of "conservatism" and "authoritarianism", they also showed no tendency to rate themselves consistently in either direction on either trait.

They were anti-environmentalism (r = .16), authoritarian (.24), were well imbued with the Protestant ethic in the sense of frugality (.26), were slightly likely. to be more misanthropic as measured by the Rosenberg (11) scale (.15), rejected experience-seeking as measured by the Zuckerman (12) scale ( .20) and were slightly more likely to be sociable on Eysenck's (13) scale (.16).

The mean score on the Attitude to Australia scale was 39.38 with a standard deviation of 5.67. As the scale's eleven items were all scored from 1 to 5 with a midpoint of 3, this mean must be compared with a midpoint (indifference point) of 33. Thus the mean was more than one standard deviation above the midpoint - implying that the attitudes expressed towards Australia were even in 1974 generally very positive. The present results do then confirm that the present era of Australian patriotism is not just a media-created mirage. Love of country is indeed a strongly held sentiment among the Australian population at large.

Also as expected, the considerable generality of patriotic fervour did wash out the correlations observed with other attributes to very low levels. Even the significant correlations were not high. Nonetheless several influences on patriotism were identified. Conservatism, authoritarianism, frugality, misanthropy, sociability and suspicion of trendy causes are all predisposing factors.

The apparent contradiction that patriots are both misanthropic and sociable arises only because the Rosenberg misanthropy scale is slightly misnamed. Its items reflect cynicism about human nature rather than straight-out dislike of others. There is of course nothing inconsistent about liking people while being alive to their faults. The combination might in fact be seen as a rather mature one.

With the exception of the sociability factor, it is nonetheless notable that the constellation of traits associated with patriotism is after all rather similar to that described by Adorno et al in their work on the pre-Fascist personality. If patriotism is widespread, does this mean that the whole country (including both major political parties) in steadily becoming more Fascist?

To a liberal in the European sense (or a libertarian in the American sense) this does indeed appear to be so. Ordinary Western societies now have a degree of involvement by government in the national economy that once only a Mussolini would have aspired to. At the entry of Australia into the second world war, most Australians paid no income tax. Now most pay at a standard rate of nearly one third of their income! At least in the economic sphere one could say that although the Fascists lost the war, Fascism won the peace.

On the other hand, of course, the involvement of the government in setting standards for individual conduct in non-economic matters would seem to have diminished. No longer do inspectors measure ladies' bikinis on Bondi Beach. What, then, is the overall picture? If government authoritarianism has increased in some areas but declined in others, what does this signify for the attitudes of the population at large? Have attitudes towards authority as a whole tended to become more accepting or more rebellious? Again speculation would be idle. More data are needed.

Again such data are potentially available. In 1970 a doorstep survey was carried out in the Sydney area which included the Ray (14) "attitude to authority" scale. One needs only to repeat the survey at the end of the decade to find out if attitudes at least in Sydney have been changing.

In late 1979, then, a random doorstep cluster sample of the Sydney metropolitan area was carried out. Cluster sampling is the method used by most Australian public opinion polls - where it generally gives quite accurate results. Only 102 people were interviewed as this again was sufficient to test the significance of all but minute differences. The mean obtained in the 1970 survey on the Attitude to Authority scale had been 64.76 with a standard deviation of 9.81. In 1979 the mean was 63.88 with a standard deviation of 10.38. Such a minute difference is of course well below the level required for acceptance as statistically significant. It may also be noted that on demographic variables the two samples did not differ - indicating that the samples were indeed comparable. There were then no overall changes in attitude to authority in Sydney over the period.

The findings of this diachronic comparison and of the Social Barometer survey are then somewhat in conflict. Although patriotism is associated with authoritarianism and patriotism has increased, authoritarianism has not increased. The conflict is however only apparent. If patriotism and authoritarianism were very highly correlated there would indeed be a conflict. Since they are in fact only quite weakly associated, it is quite easy for one to increase while the other does not.

Overall, then, we must conclude that in Australia today it is true that those most predisposed to patriotism are rather like the "authoritarians" described by Adorno et al but that such personality factors are but a small part of the reasons behind the great upwelling of national pride that we are now witnessing. Most encouraging of all, this upwelling is not a sign of increased openness to Fascist sentiments.


1. Adorno, T. W., Frenkel-Brunswik, E., Levinson, D. J. & Sanford, R. N., The Authoritarian Personality, N.Y., Harper, 1950.

2. See the August 1972 Harris Opinion Poll conducted by the Daily Express.

3. Ray, J.J. (1974) Are racists ethnocentric? Ch. 46 in Ray, J.J. Conservatism as heresy Sydney: A.N.Z. Book Co.

4. Lipset, S. M. Political Man, N.Y., Doubleday, 1960.

5. Ray, J.J. & Wilson, R.S. (1976) Social conservatism in Australia. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Sociology 12(3), 255-257.

6. Ray, J.J. (1972) A new balanced F scale -- And its relation to social class. Australian Psychologist 7, 155-166.

7. Ray & Wilson Op cit.

8. Wilson, R. S., 'Are you experienced?', Feedback 1973, 8, 29-31.

9. This scale was formed from the high loading items of the impulsiveness subfactor of the Eysenck Extraversion scale. See Eysenck, S. B. G. & Eysenck, H. J., 'On the dual nature of extraversion', British J. Social & Clinical Psychology 1963, 2, 46-55.

10. Six items selected from Greenwald, H. J. & Satow, Y., 'A short social desirability scale', Psychol. Reports 1970, 27, 131-5.

11. Rosenberg, M., 'Misanthropy and political ideology', Amer. Sociological Review 1956, 21, 690-5.

12. Zuckerman, M., 'Dimensions of sensation seeking'. J. Consulting & Clinical Psychol. 1971, 36, 45-52. Items from Table 2.

13. The second factor of extraversion. See note 9 above.

14. Ray, J.J. (1971) An "Attitude to Authority" scale. Australian Psychologist, 6, 31-50.


John J. Ray is Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University of New South Wales



Thanks are due to Mr R. S. Wilson of the Roy Morgan Organization for making available the "Social Barometer" data referred to. The other surveys were organized by the author.


Replication is one of the cornerstones of science. A new research result will normally require replication by later researchers before the truth and accuracy of the observation concerned is generally accepted. If a result is to be replicated, however, careful specification of the original research procedure is important.

In questionnaire research it has been my observation that the results are fairly robust as to questionnaire format. It is the content of the question that matters rather than how the question is presented (But see here and here). It is nonetheless obviously desirable for an attempted replication to follow the original procedure as closely as possible so I have given here samples of how I presented my questionnaires in most of the research I did. On all occasions, respondents were asked to circle a number to indicate their response.

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