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Lowy Institute Poll 2013 shows Australians want it both ways on China and the US and back the Coalition on key foreign policy issues

Today the Lowy Institute for International Policy releases the results of its annual Poll on Australian attitudes to the world.

The Lowy Institute Poll 2013 has found that more Australians of voting age (by a margin of over two to one) think the Coalition would do a better job than Labor on five of eight key issues: managing the economy, foreign investment, asylum seekers, the US alliance and national security. Labor leads on two issues: managing the relationship with China and the response to climate change. There was no clear difference between the Government and the Opposition on the issue of managing relations with Asia.

Despite most Australians seeing China as the most important economy to Australia, more Australians place a higher value on our relationship with the United States than with China. Australians still overwhelmingly support the US alliance, and support for basing US forces in Australia has increased to 61% (up 6 points since 2011).  

Meanwhile, sentiments towards China have cooled, its ‘thermometer’ rating falling 5 points, and 57% of Australians think that Australia is allowing too much investment from China.

Nevertheless, the vast majority (87%) say it is possible for Australia to have a good relationship with China and the United States at the same time.

“The 2013 Lowy Institute Poll illustrates why a central policy issue for future Australian governments will be managing the Australia–United States–China strategic triangle”, said the Executive Director of the Lowy Institute, Dr Michael Fullilove.

“Australians overwhelmingly support the US alliance and more place a higher value on Australia’s relationship with the United States than with China. They are wary about China but aware of its importance to Australia’s economic future.”

“Australians think it is possible to have good relations with both Washington and Beijing, but whether this optimism is warranted will depend in part on skilled Australian statecraft”, Dr Fullilove said.

On terrorism, most Australians (68%) think the government has struck about the right balance between protecting the rights of citizens and fighting terrorism. Only 11% say the government leans too much towards protecting the rights of citizens in government responses to terrorism.

Another significant aspect of this year’s Poll is the generational differences it highlights. Less than half (48%) of young Australians (18–29-year-olds) say they prefer democracy over any other kind of government. Young Australians tend to be more optimistic about the economy and less supportive of the US alliance and US bases in Australia. They are less inclined to spend more on defence, less concerned about unauthorised boat arrivals and less favourably disposed to offshore processing, being the only age-group falling short of majority support for this policy.

Alex Oliver, author of the Poll, said “The 2013 Poll highlights how differently young Australians see the world. Despite our proud history of democratic activism, less than half think that democracy is preferable to any other kind of government. This is a phenomenon that needs to be better understood if we value participation in the civic life of the nation.”

Other key Poll findings include a reversal in the downward trend in support for strong action on climate change, views on whether Australia should support military action in the Middle East or Asia, what government should be doing in response to a rising Asia, attitudes to Indonesia, views on the G20, and optimism about the economy.   

The 2013 Lowy Institute Poll is a nationally representative survey of 1,002 Australian adults conducted by telephone from 4 to 20 March 2013.

The full report is free to download on the Lowy Institute website Follow the Poll on Twitter #LowyPoll2013.


The 2013 Lowy Institute Poll will be launched by Dr Michael Fullilove, who will chair an interactive discussion and Q & A with ABC journalist and commentator, Annabel Crabb, Dan Flitton, senior correspondent for The Age newspaper and Tony Shepherd, Chairman of Transfield Services and President of the Business Council of Australia.  Lowy Institute Poll 2013 author Alex Oliver will present the results.

Media are warmly invited to attend the launch.

Date: Monday 24 June 2013
Time: 12.30 for 12.45pm – 1.45pm
Location: 31 Bligh St, Sydney
Media RSVP (essential):


Media are welcome to download/use in their media packages audio and video footage of Lowy Institute 2013 Poll author Alex Oliver discussing key Poll results, as well as the cover Poll report image.   

Poll Cover Image: