CANBERRA - A new poll has revealed deep concerns over race in Australia following December's Cronulla Beach riots and continuing controversy over Islamic extremism.

The Coredata polls for the News Ltd website, reflects experiences of Muslims documented in a Human Rights and Equal Opportunity study. But it conflicts with other studies that have found that the level of racism in Australia is low and in line with other major Western countries.

The poll reported that almost two-thirds of Australians believed there was underlying racism in their country, disputing the view held by Prime Minister John Howard. Four in 10 believed Australia could be described as a racist nation, and one in four disagreed that multiculturalism was an Australian value.

There was also overwhelming support for the view that migrants who came to Australia to live should have to modify their ways to the Australian way of life. The poll found 79 per cent of the poll's 2550 online respondents backed a recent speech by Treasurer Peter Costello, in which he said new arrivals to Australia should be forced to conform to the country's existing values. But opinion was divided on what constituted Australian values. said mateship and fairness were seen as key values by 86 per cent of respondents, while only two-thirds agreed that respect for the law was a national value - the same number as those who regarded "larrikinism" in that light.

The most favoured option for defining who was an Australian was "people who love Australia and love being in Australia", selected by 45 per cent. Twenty per cent favoured "people who have gained citizenship", and 13 per cent "people with Australian values". The White Australia option was picked by only 2.2 per cent.

Only 28 per cent believed Australian values had improved during Howard's term. Opinion on whether he should remain PM was split, with 42 per cent agreeing and 38 per cent disagreeing.