People who fly Australia Day flags on their cars tend to express more racist attitudes than others without flags, according to research findings at The University of Western Australia.
UWA sociologist and anthropologist Professor Farida Fozdar and a team of assistants surveyed 513 people at last year's Australia Day fireworks on Perth's Swan River foreshore.
One in five said they had attached flags to their cars to celebrate Australia Day.
Professor Fozdar said 43 per cent of those with car flags said they believed the now-abandoned White Australia Policy had saved Australia from many problems experienced by other countries, while only 25 per cent without flags agreed.
(Non-Europeans were barred from migrating to Australia until after World War II, when immigration restrictions began to ease.)
A total of 56 per cent of people with car flags feared their culture and its most important values were in danger, compared with 34 per cent of non-flaggers.
And 35 per cent of flaggers felt that people had to be born in Australia to be truly Australian, while 23 per cent believed that true Australians had to be Christian, compared with 22 per cent and 18 per cent respectively for non-flaggers.
Professor Fozdar said her research also revealed clear differences in how people with car flags felt towards minority groups.
Only 39 per cent of flaggers expressed a positive view towards Aboriginal Australians compared with 47 per cent of non-flaggers, 19 per cent of flaggers felt positive towards Muslim Australians compared with 26 per cent of non-flaggers; seven per cent of flaggers were positive towards asylum seekers compared with 24 per cent of non-flaggers, and 27 per cent with flags felt positive towards Asian Australians compared with 48 per cent of non-flaggers.
Three survey questions sought views on Australian cultural diversity: 64 per cent of people with car flags agreed that it was good for people from different ethnic, religious and racial groups to live in Australia, compared with 75 per cent of non-flaggers.
An overwhelming 91 per cent of people with car flags agreed that people who move to Australia should adopt Australian values, compared with 76 per cent of non-flaggers.
A total of 55 per cent of flaggers believed migrants should leave their old ways behind, compared with 30 per cent of non-flaggers.
However majorities of both groups - 60 per cent of flaggers and 73 per cent of non-flaggers - also felt that it was best to respect and learn from each other's cultural differences.
Professor Fozdar said there was no clear link between education, gender, ethnicity, citizenship, voting pattern or income and flag flying, although her survey showed a slightly higher likelihood of younger rather than older people adopting the practice.
In terms of nationalism, 88 per cent of those with Australia Day car flags said they thought it showed they were proud to be Australian, while only 52 per cent of those without flags thought so.
Some thought the increased popularity of flying Australia Day car flags was due to increased patriotism while others said it was simply peer pressure to follow the trend or avoid seeming unpatriotic.
Many said it was due to marketing and the cheap availability of car flags, while some thought it was a response to loss of culture due to multiculturalism, immigration, invasion and terrorism.
"What I found interesting is that many people didn't really have much to say about why they chose to fly car flags or not," Professor Fozdar said.
"Many felt strongly patriotic about it - and for some, this was quite a racist or exclusionary type of patriotism - but it wasn't a particularly conscious thing for many.
"Very clear statistical differences in attitudes to diversity between those who fly car flags and those who don't, show that flag waving - while not inherently exclusionary - is linked in this instance to negative attitudes about those who do not fit the ‘mainstream' stereotype'."
Professor Fozdar said fewer people said they flew Australia Day car flags last year - one in five - compared with 2010 when it was one in four.