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Lowy Institute Poll 2014: Findings

16 Jun 2014
Craig Beyerinck
Source: Creative Commons Wikimedia

For ten years the Lowy Institute has been conducting a poll of Australians on Australia and the world.

In the decade since it was first published, the poll has shown the feelings of Australians on foreign policy and has challenged preconceived notions of Australians’ views on a wide range of topics. The 2014 poll used topics from previous years and has added new topics such as “Australia’s best friend in Asia” and espionage practices.

Foreign Relations

Out of six Asian countries it was found that 31% think that China is Australia’s best friend while 28% find that Japan deserves that title. Despite this and positive feelings towards China rising to 60 degrees this year, 47% think that China will be a military threat within the next 20 years. 56% think that Australia allows too much investment from China. When looking at Indonesia, 40% (24 points higher than in 2008) think relations with Indonesia to be declining with only seven percent finding that they are improving. This being said, 57% still see Indonesia as friendly.

Security and Intelligence

Turning to views on intelligence practices, 70% of Australians find it acceptable to spy on countries that Australia does not have good relations with while 50% think it is OK to spy on governments with which Australia has good relations.

Looking at threats to Australia, terrorism is considered to be the biggest threat to the country’s interests in the next ten years though the number of people seeing terrorism as a critical threat has dropped eight points since 2006. 64% think that unfriendly countries becoming nuclear powers is the biggest threat. These two issues are followed by cyber attacks from other countries and Iran’s nuclear programme.

Climate Change

Global warming is seen as a serious problem by 45% of Australians, which is up five points from the previous year. 63% say that the government should take a leading role in reducing emissions and only 28% think that Australia should wait for an international consensus before acting.

Asylum Policy

Views on asylum seeker policy were shown to have high consensus with 71% thinking it is acceptable for the government to turn back boats when it is deemed safe to do so. 42% think that no asylum seeker coming by boat should be allowed to settle in Australia. 59% support the processing of asylum seekers in offshore centres. The country is relatively split on the topic of temporary protection visas with 48% supporting and 49% not supporting. Slightly less than half of those polled think that current migration levels are about right with 37% saying that the number of migrants coming to Australia is too high.

Governance and Foreign Policy

When considering governance, 60% of Australian adults and 42% of 18-29 year olds find democracy to be preferable to any other kind of government. This was mainly supported by the argument that policies from major parties are relatively similar.

When asked about the role of aid and foreign policy, 75% of Australians think that it should help reduce poverty in poor counties. 20% think that the most important goal of aid should be promoting Australia’s foreign policy objectives.

A majority of those polled support foreign investment in manufacturing and the financial sector while few support foreign investment in agriculture, ports and airports.

Out of a list of leaders offered, Australians most admire President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Aung San Suu Kyi and Angela Merkel.

For the PDF version, please visit the Lowy Institute’s website.


Craig Beyerinck is an intern at the Australian Institute of International Affairs National Office. He can be reached at