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Thursday 24 Aug 2017 | 12:51 | SYDNEY

2010 Lowy Institute Poll

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31 May 2010 08:17

The 2010 Lowy Institute Poll was released today. It's the sixth annual poll tracking Australian attitudes towards the world.

Poll results can be interpreted in various ways. In a seminal book on polling, Walter Lippmann argued public opinion dealt with 'indirect, unseen, and puzzling facts and there is nothing obvious about them'.

Here's my attempt at interpreting the results of our latest poll.

First of all, Australians love New Zealand. Every year we ask Australians to rank their feelings towards different countries and in no year has any country received a higher score than New Zealand did this year. Canada managed second place followed by France, Singapore, the US and Japan. North Korea continues to suffer from an image problem and ranked last.

Australians might know who they like, but are divided about where they fit in the world. One third (32%) said Australia was more a part of Asia, one third (31%) said we were part of the Pacific, and the other third (31%) that we were not really part of any region.

Interestingly, there was a difference among the generations. Younger Australians (18-29 years old) were most likely to say Australia was not really part of any region (46%) compared with just 15% who said it was more a part of Asia. Those 60 years or older said the opposite: 42% said Australia was more a part of Asia and just 15% that it was not really part of any region.

One of the results I found most interesting this year was on the world's leading economic power.

A majority (55%) of Australians said it was China, only a third (32%) the US and just 8% the countries of the European Union. That in no way reflects IMF data which still puts the European Union and the US well ahead of China, measured in both purchasing power parity and US dollar exchange rate terms. 

Internationally, Australians are also outliers by identifying China. A multi-nation Pew survey that asked the same question in 2008 and 2009 didn't find a single country where a majority said China was the world's leading economic power — not even the Chinese people themselves.     

On China, there was some increase in ambivalence about its rise. Almost three quarters (73%) of Australians agreed China's growth had been good for Australia, but 69% also agreed China's aim was to dominate Asia (up nine points since 2008).

An increased proportion said Australia was allowing too much investment from China (57% up from 50% last year) and almost half (46%) said it was likely China would become a military threat to Australia in the next 20 years.

Other findings included a report card on the Rudd Government's handling of foreign policy, Australia developing nuclear weapons, the war in Afghanistan, foreign aid, Papua New Guinea, the UN Security Council bid, and climate change all of which you can read about in the report.

I thought I'd finish with this chart. We hear a lot about politicians making policy based on opinion polling. But do Australians think the Government listens to their opinions when it makes foreign policy? Apparently not.

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