"A recent poll shows 69 per cent of Australians want asylum seekers to have the same legal rights regardless of how they arrive.
The Nielsen poll of more that 1,000 people was conducted for the human rights group Amnesty International.
Amnesty International's Dr Graham Thom says the poll is significant because detainees on Christmas Island do not have the same rights as those on the mainland.
Dr Thom says the poll sends a strong message to policymakers.
"While only a fraction of those who seek asylum in Australia each year come by boat, the majority of people think it's up to 60 per cent and a third of people think it's even 80 per cent, but even with that perception Australians believe they should be treated equally," Dr Thom said.
Dr Thom says in actual fact only 3.4 per cent of asylum seekers came by boat last year.
"Clearly there is a focus on boat arrivals that is just not justifiable and this has been picked up by the population, they are being misinformed and I think those responsible need to have a good look at why they're doing and hopefully stop doing it."