Press Releases

Lowy Institute Poll finds Australians' fears rising, and terrorism the biggest security risk

16 June 2015

The 2015 Lowy Institute Poll, released today, has found that of eight potential risks to Australia’s security, Australians rank terrorism-related threats first, second and third: 69% say ‘the emergence of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’ is a high risk to Australia’s security in the next ten years. ‘Terrorist attacks on Australians overseas’ (55% saying high risk) and ‘home-grown terrorism in Australia’ (53% saying high risk) rank second and third as risks to Australia’s security in the next ten years.

Most Australians (69%) support Australia’s participation in military action against Islamic State in Iraq, even though a majority (55%) believe that participation increases the risk of terrorism to Australia now, and only 20% think it makes us safer from terrorism in the future.

“Australians’ concerns about security and terrorism appear to be driving a broad acceptance of our involvement in military action against Islamic State in Iraq. That support is remarkable considering that so few think this military action makes Australia safer from terrorism in the future”, said Dr Michael Fullilove, Executive Director of the Lowy Institute.

Risks of conflict in our region rank far lower in Australians’ threat perceptions, with only 20% seeing ‘military conflict between the United States and China in Asia’ as a high risk. ‘Maritime disputes between China and its neighbours in Asian territorial seas’ are seen as high risk by only 26% of Australians.

Against this backdrop of rising insecurity and the risk of terrorism, the Government’s new metadata retention laws have the support of a clear majority of Australians. Asked about ‘legislation which will require Australian telecommunication companies to retain data about communications such as phone calls, emails and internet usage, but not their content’, 63% of Australians say this is ‘justified as part of the effort to combat terrorism and protect national security. Only one-third (33%) say it ‘goes too far in violating citizens’ privacy and is therefore not justified”.

“Australians appear to accept some intrusions on their privacy in the interests of fighting terrorism and protecting national security”, said Dr Michael Fullilove, Executive Director of the Lowy Institute.

The full report is  available on the Lowy Institute website, together with the updated 2015 Lowy Institute Poll Interactive – a data visualisation tool exploring key results from 11 years of Lowy Institute polling.

The 2015 Lowy Institute Poll is based on a nationally representative telephone survey of 1200 Australian adults by I-view between 20 February and 8 March 2015, together with four supplementary polls by Newspoll in February, April and May 2015 (each with samples of 1200+ adults). The error margin on a sample of 1200 is approximately +/- 2.8%.