Champions of Australia's security alliance with the United States can take some comfort from the latest polling by Sydney think tank the Lowy Institute, which shows 80 per cent of us recognise the alliance is important or very important for Australia's security.
But the results also point to some confusion and uncertainty about what the alliance is for and how it relates to strategic risks in our Asian region.
A solid majority - 70 per cent - recognise that without the alliance, Australia would need to spend much more on defence. It is a little surprising that as many as 30 per cent would think otherwise.
Australia's national interests are unusually extensive, and the gap between them and our independent capabilities to protect or advance them is vast. Even the most respected and prominent critic of the alliance, the late Malcolm Fraser, acknowledged that without it our military spending would need to dramatically increase.
The polling also suggests most Australians, as many as 77 per cent, agree that "Australians and Americans share many common values and ideals". Perhaps this helps explain why there remains a majority 69 per cent support, despite misgivings in parts of the community, for Australia's participation in military action against Islamic State in Iraq.
There's also a refreshingly sophisticated sense of the singular kind of country the US is, with its resilience and capacity for revitalisation. Thus, the poll suggests that, whatever the headlines about a power shift to China, a majority of Australians - 61 per cent - consider that a decade hence the US will continue to play as important a role in world affairs as it does now.
The new polling data gets confusing about how the US alliance relates to strategic change in Indo-Pacific Asia. Whether we like it or not, our alliance with the US does not exist in isolation from wider geopolitical currents in our Indo-Pacific region, or the tangle of other relationships out there.
Ours is not the US's only Asian alliance: think also Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Thailand, as well as informal partners such as Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and India, plus a special expectation of commitment to Taiwan, yet there seems only limited awareness in the Australian public of how one US alliance in Asia relates to another, and how they all relate and respond to China's military rise.
The polling shows an intriguing mix of views on how Australia, and the US alliance, should help the region manage China's rise. Most Australians - 77 per cent - understandably see China more as an economic partner than a military threat, yet 39 per cent still consider that this could change within the next 20 years.
The challenge is to incorporate China's legitimate interests into the regional order without conflict, but also without unacceptable infringement on the vital interests of others. Tensions around China's militarised island-building in contested waters in the South China Sea are a reminder of this problem, which has also manifested in confrontation between China and Japan over islands in the East China Sea.
The poll reflects Australians' public concern about possible threats to regional order, with 66 per cent of respondents saying: "Australia should do more to resist China's military aggression in our region, even if this affects our economic relationship".
However, the picture gets murkier when it comes to the detail. The poll reveals that, in the event of a war between China and Japan, 84 per cent of respondents would want Australia to be neutral.
These are implausible circumstances. Japan, like Australia, is a close ally of the US, so it is difficult to envisage a situation in which it would get into a confrontation with China without the support of its ally. Indeed, part of the point of the Tokyo-Washington alliance is to deter China from conflict with Japan, as well as to ensure Japan remains a predictable, peaceful and stabilising power in the region.
If the US needed to signal its support to Japan to deter conflict with China, presumably it would expect at least diplomatic support from allies such as Australia.
The idea of Australia being neutral in a confrontation between China and a fellow US ally, while yet expecting to keep intact the military, intelligence, technology and diplomatic benefits of its own alliance, is hard to imagine.
This does not mean that Japan or any other US ally, such as the Philippines, can automatically expect Australian military support in a clash with China, but nor does it mean that we can pretend that discouraging precedents of intimidation elsewhere in Asia is not our problem or a broad responsibility under our alliance.
The fact that next month Japanese forces will be welcomed to Australia to join a major training exercise with US and Australian troops underscores that we need to stop thinking about our alliance in isolation from regional realities.
Professor Rory Medcalf is a non-resident fellow with the Lowy Institute and head of the National Security College at the Australian National University.