Preface

The unprovoked, unjustified and brutal invasion of Ukraine by its nuclear-armed neighbour Russia, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, represents a remarkable discontinuity in international affairs — possibly the greatest since the Second World War.

Far away in Australia, we feel the ripple effects of Moscow’s actions, which violate the key principles of the international system. At this troubling moment, the 2022 Lowy Institute Poll captures the mood of our country.

The issues that Australians have seen as threats in recent years — Covid-19, climate change and cyberattacks — have been eclipsed by anxiety about Russia’s foreign policies.

Almost all Australians are concerned by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Our confidence in Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has fallen to the same levels as that placed in North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. Russia is the country that Australians trust the least.

By contrast, Australians feel very warmly towards Ukraine. Has any country ever remade its global reputation more surely and swiftly than Ukraine? Most Australians favour the welcoming of Ukrainian refugees, the provision of military aid to the war effort and the sanctioning of Russia.

The growing cooperation between Russia and China is of great concern to many Australians. Australians see China’s foreign policy as a critical threat. Their trust in China continues to fall, and in a dramatic shift, three-quarters of Australians see China as posing a military threat to Australia in the years to come.

The news of a security agreement between China and Solomon Islands also struck a chord for many.

Most Australians see a Chinese military base in the Pacific as concerning, and support the deployment of foreign aid to limit China’s influence in the Pacific.

Australians are increasingly concerned about the potential for great-power competition to spill over into confrontation. The possibility for a war over Taiwan continues to grow as a threat in the Australian mind. This year, for the first time, a majority would support the involvement of the Australian Defence Force if Taiwan were invaded and the United States went to Taiwan’s defence.

The recent behaviour of Russia and China has focused the mind on the differences between authoritarian and democratic systems. Australian support for democracy is at a high watermark in 2022, and a majority of Australians see the rise of authoritarianism as a critical threat to our interests.

In 2022, Australians report feeling unsafe, and as the potential for conflict in our region feels more possible, support for Australia’s alliance with the United States has returned to a record high.

The majority of Australians now support increased defence spending and Australia’s plans to acquire nuclear-powered submarines. Around half say the AUKUS partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States will make Australia and our region safer.

Australia’s relations with the world are now, of course, the responsibility of the new Labor government. The Lowy Institute Poll, in its eighteenth year, reveals that Australians are looking at the world with some concern.

Dr Michael Fullilove
Executive Director
June 2022

Executive summary

Trust in global powers

Only 5% of Australians say they trust Russia ‘somewhat’ or ‘a great deal’ to act responsibly in the world, a 21-point fall from 2021. One in ten (12%) trust China, a 40-point decrease since 2018. Around half trust India (56%) and Indonesia (51%). Trust in the United States is stable from last year at 65%, but remains 18 points below the levels of trust expressed towards the United States in 2009 and 2011 (83%). Most Australians trust France (82%), Japan (87%) and the United Kingdom (87%) to act responsibly in the world.

Confidence in world leaders

A small fraction of Australians (6%) say they have ‘a lot’ or ‘some’ confidence in Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to do the right thing regarding world affairs, a ten-point decline since 2021. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un inspires confidence in 5% of Australians. Only 11% have confidence in China’s President Xi Jinping. A third of Australians (32%) have confidence in Indonesian President Joko Widodo, a six-point increase from 2021. Four in ten Australians (38%) have confidence in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Six in ten Australians have confidence in UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (59%) and in US President Joe Biden (58%), though Biden’s result has declined 11 points since 2021. The Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida (65%), and French President Emmanuel Macron (67%) both elicit high levels of confidence. Most Australians (87%) express confidence in New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Safety and threats to Australia’s interests

The majority of Australians (53%) say they feel ‘very safe’ or ‘safe’, a 17-point drop from 2021. Seven in ten Australians (68%) say Russia’s foreign policy poses ‘a critical threat’ to the vital interests of Australia in the next ten years, up 36 points since 2017. The majority of Australians (65%) see China’s foreign policy as a critical threat, up 29 points from 2017. A similar number (64%) say a military conflict between the United States and China over Taiwan poses a critical threat, a 12-point increase from 2021. Many Australians also see cyberattacks from other countries (64%), climate change (62%) and North Korea’s nuclear program (58%) as critical threats.

More than half (55%) say the rise of authoritarian systems of government around the world poses a critical threat, a 14-point increase since 2020. The same number (55%) say that a severe downturn in the global economy poses a critical threat, a five-point increase from 2021. Less than half (42%) see Covid-19 and other potential epidemics as a critical threat, down 34 points since 2020. Only a third of Australians (34%) see political instability in the United States as a critical threat.

A bare majority of Australians (51%) say they would be in favour of using the Australian military ‘if China invaded Taiwan and the United States decided to intervene’, an increase of eight points since 2019. Four in ten Australians (40%) are in favour of deploying the military ‘if Russia invaded one of its neighbours’, a nine-point increase from 2017.

AUKUS and the Quad

A slim majority of Australians (52%) say AUKUS, the trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, will make Australia safer, while 22% say AUKUS will make no difference and 7% say the partnership will make Australia less safe. Around half (49%) say AUKUS will make the region safer, while 11% are unsure about AUKUS and 8% say they have never heard of AUKUS.

Half the population (51%) say Australia should increase defence spending, a 20-point increase since 2019. Seven in ten Australians (70%) are ‘strongly’ or ‘somewhat’ in favour of Australia’s plan to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, while 28% say they are against the acquisition. A third (36%) say they are strongly or somewhat in favour of ‘Australia acquiring nuclear weapons in the future’, while 63% are either somewhat or strongly against the acquisition of nuclear weapons.

A slim majority of Australians say the Quad, a partnership between Australia, India, Japan and the United States, will make Australia (53%) and our region (52%) safer. One in five Australians say the Quad will make no difference to Australia (20%) or to the region (21%). Only a small proportion say the Quad will make Australia (4%) or the region (5%) less safe. One in ten Australians are unsure about the Quad’s impact on Australia (10%) and the region (11%), and 12% of Australians have never heard of the Quad.

Following the AUKUS agreement, around half of Australians (49%) say both countries are equally to blame for the tensions in the Australia–France relationship. A third (35%) say Australia is more to blame, and 12% say France is more to blame.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Almost all Australians (92%) say they are ‘very’ or ‘somewhat concerned’ about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a separate April 2022 survey. Most Australians (87%) also say they are concerned about China–Russia cooperation. Seven in ten Australians (72%) say they are very or somewhat concerned about India–Russia cooperation. The vast majority strongly or somewhat support ‘admitting Ukrainian refugees into Australia’ (90%), ‘keeping strict sanctions on Russia’ (89%) and ‘providing military aid to Ukraine’ (83%).

China and the United States

Three-quarters (75%) in 2022 say it is ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ likely that China will become a military threat to Australia in the next 20 years, an increase of 29 points since 2018. Six in ten (63%) say China is ‘more of a security threat’ to Australia, while 33% say China is ‘more of an economic partner’ to Australia.

Nine in ten Australians (87%) say the ANZUS alliance is ‘very important’ or ‘fairly important’ to Australia’s security, a nine-point increase from 2021. Three-quarters (77%) agree that ‘Australia’s alliance with the United States makes it more likely Australia will be drawn into a war in Asia that would not be in Australia’s interests’, up eight points from 2019. Two-thirds (64%) agree that ‘the alliance relationship with the United States makes Australia safer from attack or pressure from China’, an eight-point increase from 2019.

A bare majority (51%) say that Australia should remain neutral in the event of a military conflict between China and the United States, a six-point fall since 2021. Almost half (46%) say Australia should support the United States in such a conflict, a five-point increase from last year. Only 1% say that Australia should support China.

Democracy at home and abroad

In 2022, three-quarters of Australians (74%) say ‘democracy is preferable to any other kind of government’, an increase of 12 points from 2018 and a record high in the history of the Lowy Institute Poll. One in five Australians (18%) say ‘in some circumstances, a non-democratic government can be preferable’. Only 7% say ‘for someone like me, it doesn’t matter what kind of government we have’.

Economic outlook, globalisation and trade

Six in ten Australians (62%) say they are ‘very optimistic’ or ‘optimistic’ about Australia’s economic performance in the world over the next five years, a 17-point fall from 2021. Three-quarters of Australians (73%) say globalisation is ‘mostly good’ for Australia. The majority say free trade is good for their standard of living (80%, up five points from 2019), for the Australian economy (78%, a seven-point increase from 2019), for Australian companies (71%, a six-point increase from 2019) and for ‘creating jobs in Australia’ (66%, a five-point increase since 2019).

Covid-19 pandemic and immigration

Most Australians see New Zealand (92%), Singapore (84%) and Australia (80%) as having handled the pandemic ‘very well’ or ‘fairly well’. Less than half (45%) say China has handled Covid-19 well. A minority of Australians say the United Kingdom (39%, up 20 points from 2021) and the United States (25%, up 18 points from 2021) performed well during the pandemic.

Less than half (46%) say that the number of immigrants allowed into Australia should be ‘around the same as pre-Covid levels’. A third of Australians (33%) say immigration should be ‘lower than pre-Covid levels’, while 21% say ‘higher than pre-Covid levels’. Seven in ten Australians (68%) say ‘Australia’s openness to people from all over the world is essential to who we are as a nation’, a 15-point increase from 2018. A third (31%) say ‘if Australia is too open to people from all over the world, we risk losing our identity as a nation’, down ten points since 2018.

Climate change and energy

Six in ten Australians (60%) say ‘global warming is a serious and pressing problem’ about which ‘we should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs’. Three in ten (29%) say the ‘problem of global warming should be addressed, but its effects will be gradual, so we can deal with the problem gradually by taking steps that are low in cost’, while 10% say that ‘until we are sure that global warming is really a problem, we should not take any steps that would have economic costs’.

The vast majority of Australians support federal government subsidies for renewable energy technology (90%), committing to a more ambitious emissions target for 2030 (77%) and Australia hosting a United Nations Climate Conference (75%). More than half support reducing coal exports to other countries (65%), introducing an emissions trading scheme or carbon tax (64%) and banning new coal mines (63%). Increasing the use of gas (59%) and removing the ban on nuclear power (52%) also receive majority support. Only a third (33%) support subsiding new coal-fired power plants.

Foreign aid to the Pacific

Almost all Australians are in favour of providing aid to the Pacific for disaster relief (93%), Covid-19 vaccines (86%) and for long-term economic development (84%). Eight in ten (82%) favour providing aid to help prevent China from increasing its influence in the Pacific, while 88% are either ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ concerned about China potentially opening a military base in a Pacific Island country. Three-quarters of Australians (75%) are in favour of providing aid to Pacific Island states for climate change action.

Feelings thermometer

Russia sits at the bottom of the Lowy Institute ‘feelings thermometer’ at a very cool 19°, a 22-degree drop in a single year. Feelings towards China remain cool at 33°. Australians feel warmly towards regional partners including Indonesia (57°), Papua New Guinea (61°), South Korea (63°), Taiwan (64°) and Vietnam (64°). Views of the United States have warmed three degrees to 65°. Australians feel warmly towards Ukraine and France (both 69°). Feelings towards Japan (74°), the United Kingdom (77°) and Canada (80°) remain very warm. In 2022, New Zealand again leads the Lowy Institute feelings thermometer, receiving a very warm 86°.


The Lowy Institute Poll reports the results of a nationally representative online and telephone survey conducted by the Social Research Centre (SRC) between 15 and 28 March 2022, with a sample size of 2006 Australian adults. On a simple random sample of 2006 responses, the margin of error is 2.2%. The design effect for this survey is estimated at 1.77. See Methodology.

Global powers and world leaders

Trust in global powers

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Australian views of Russia have plummeted. Only 5% of Australians say they trust Russia ‘somewhat’ or ‘a great deal’ to act responsibly in the world. This represents a 21-point fall from 2021, and marks Russia displacing China as the least trusted country for Australians.

Most Australians continue to hold very low levels of trust in China, with 12% saying they trust China somewhat or a great deal, a 40-point decrease since 2018. A bare majority of Australians (51%) trust Indonesia, which is steady from 2021. Trust in India has declined somewhat, with 56% saying they trust India to act responsibly in the world, a five-point fall in the past year.

Explore

Trust in global powers

How much do you trust the following countries to act responsibly in the world?

  1. 100%
  2. 50%
  3. 0%
  4. 50%
  5. 100%
Japan
10
60
27
United Kingdom
10
58
29
France
15
63
19
United States
9
26
49
16
India
8
35
51
Indonesia
9
40
47
China
48
39
10
Russia
77
17

Trust in the United States has rebounded from its historic low levels in 2019 and 2020. Two-thirds of Australians (65%) trust the United States to act responsibly. This result is stable from 2021, but remains 18 points below the levels of trust expressed towards the United States in 2009 and 2011 (83%).

Japan and the United Kingdom rank at the top of the list of countries in 2022, with 87% of Australians saying they trust Japan and the United Kingdom to act responsibly in the world. Despite recent tensions in Australia’s relationship with France following the AUKUS announcement, eight in ten Australians (82%) trust France to act responsibly in the world. This remains steady from 2018, the last time that France was included in this list.

Confidence in world leaders

The dramatic decline in trust in Russia corresponds with many Australians losing confidence in Russian President Vladimir Putin. Only 6% of Australians say they have ‘a lot’ or ‘some’ confidence in Putin to do the right thing regarding world affairs, which marks a ten-point decline since 2021. This places him at the same level as North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, who also inspires confidence in only 5% of Australians.

Only 11% of Australians say they have a lot or some confidence in President Xi Jinping to do the right thing regarding world affairs. This figure has halved since 2020 (22%) and has fallen by 32 points since 2018 (43%).

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Confidence in world leaders

Here is a list of political leaders. For each, please indicate how much confidence you have in the leader to do the right thing regarding world affairs — a lot of confidence, some confidence, not too much confidence or no confidence at all.

  1. 100%
  2. 50%
  3. 0%
  4. 50%
  5. 100%
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
6
29
58
French President Emmanuel Macron
6
17
52
15
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida
12
51
14
10
10
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
10
29
47
12
US President Joe Biden
14
26
45
13
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
9
28
34
10
15
Indonesian President Joko Widodo
10
34
29
10
13
Chinese President Xi Jinping
56
26
9
Russian President Vladimir Putin
83
9
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un
80
12

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tops the list of global leaders again, with 87% expressing confidence in her (though this has fallen four points from 2021). This aligns with New Zealand’s retention of its traditional place at the top of the annual ‘feelings thermometer’, ranking again as the country about which Australians feel most warmly.

Despite the bilateral tensions between Australia and France, the majority of Australians (67%) express confidence in French President Emmanuel Macron. Australians also hold high levels of confidence in Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, with 65% saying they have confidence in him. Six in ten Australians (59%) have confidence in Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, which is unchanged from 2021.

While trust and warmth towards the United States have increased in 2022, fewer Australians express confidence in US President Joe Biden than in 2021. Six in ten Australians (58%) say they have some or a lot of confidence in President Biden, an 11-point decrease from his inauguration year of 2021. This remains 28 points above the confidence expressed in former President Donald Trump in 2020 (30%).

Most Australians continue to hold little confidence in key regional leaders. Four in ten Australians (38%) have confidence in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which has not changed in the past year. A third of Australians (32%) have confidence in Indonesian President Joko Widodo, a six-point increase from 2021.

Australia’s best friends

When thinking about Australia’s best friend in the world, the majority of Australians (57%) agree that it is New Zealand — a view that has been held firmly since 2017, but that represents an increase of 25 points since the question was first posed in 2014. The United States ranks second as Australia’s best friend, with 26%, an increase of six points since 2019. The United Kingdom comes in third place at 13%. Only 1% say China is Australia’s best friend in the world, an eight-point decline since 2014.

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Australia's best friend in the world

Now about Australia’s relations with other countries around the world. In your personal opinion, which one of the following countries is Australia’s best friend in the world?

  1. 0%
  2. 30%
  3. 60%
98313253595717171513351926
  1. 2014
  2. 2015
  3. 2016
  4. 2017
  5. 2018
  6. 2019
  7. 2020
  8. 2021
  9. 2022

In 2014, this question was asked on behalf of the Lowy Institute by Newspoll in its omnibus survey on 2–4 May 2014.
Dotted line indicates change in mode: see Methodology.

Australians are increasingly likely to name Japan as their best friend in Asia, while the number who see China as a best friend in the region has declined dramatically. Four in ten Australians (43%) say Japan is Australia’s best friend in Asia, an increase of 18 points since 2016. One in five (21%) name Singapore as Australia’s best friend in Asia, an increase of nine points since 2016, and 15% choose Indonesia. The remaining countries receive results in the single digits, with 7% saying India is Australia’s best friend in Asia, and 4% naming South Korea. Only 6% of Australians say China is Australia’s best friend in Asia, a decline of 24 points since 2016.

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Australia's best friend in Asia

Thinking about Australia's relations in Asia. In your personal opinion, which one of the following countries is Australia’s best friend in Asia?

  1. 0%
  2. 25%
  3. 50%
Japan
29
25
43
Singapore
13
12
21
Indonesia
8
15
15
India
5
6
7
China
29
30
6
South Korea
5
4
4

In 2014, this question was asked on behalf of the Lowy Institute by Newspoll in its omnibus survey on 2–4 May 2014.
# Note change in mode. See Methodology.

Safety and threats to Australia’s interests

Feelings of safety

Australians’ sense of safety has been up and down in recent years as people have reacted to the course of the pandemic and to global uncertainty. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and instability closer to home also appear to be having an effect on public opinion, with the survey fielded in March, soon after the war in Ukraine started. In 2022, a bare majority of Australians (53%) say they feel ‘very safe’ or ‘safe’, a 17-point drop from 2021 (70%). This is only marginally higher than the record low of Australians feeling safe in 2020, during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. This year’s result is a striking 39 points below the high point of feelings of safety in 2008 and 2010 (92%).

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Feeling of safety

Now about world events, how safe do you feel?

  1. 0%
  2. 25%
  3. 50%
  4. 75%
  5. 100%
2005
30
61
91
2006
30
56
86
2007
40
50
90
2008
35
57
92
2009
44
46
90
2010
42
50
92
2015
24
56
80
2017
20
59
79
2018
18
60
78
2020
4
46
50
2021
6
64
70
2022
6
47
53

Dashed line indicates change in mode: see Methodology.

Threats to Australia’s vital interests

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has had a clear impact on threat perceptions for many Australians. Russia’s foreign policy tops the list of threats in 2022, with 68% of Australians saying Russia’s foreign policy poses a critical threat to the vital interests of Australia in the next ten years. This marks a striking 36-point increase since 2017 (32%).

At the same time, Australians are also concerned about China and the potential for conflict in the Taiwan Strait. More than six in ten Australians (65%) say China’s foreign policy poses a critical threat to Australia’s vital interests, a 29-point increase from 2017 (36%). Concern about military conflict between the United States and China — the world’s two superpowers — has been on an upward trajectory in Australia. In 2022, 64% of Australians say ‘a military conflict between the United States and China over Taiwan’ poses a critical threat, a 12-point increase from 2021 (52%) and 29 points higher than in 2020 (35%).

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Threats to Australia's vital interests

Here is a list of possible threats to the vital interests of Australia in the next ten years. For each one, please select whether you see this as a critical threat, an important but not critical threat, or not an important threat at all.

  1. 0%
  2. 25%
  3. 50%
  4. 75%
  5. 100%
Russia's foreign policy
68
26
5
China's foreign policy
65
32
3
A military conflict between the United States and China over Taiwan
64
32
4
Cyberattacks from other countries
64
33
Climate change
62
27
11
North Korea's nuclear program
58
35
7
The rise of authoritarian systems of government around the world
55
40
4
A severe downturn in the global economy
55
42
3
Foreign interference in Australian politics
49
45
6
International terrorism
48
45
7
Covid-19 and other potential epidemics
42
48
9
Political instability in the United States
34
56
9

From 2006–2009, this question asked about ‘global warming’ rather than ‘climate change’. In 2020, this question asked about ‘novel coronavirus (Covid-19) and other potential epidemics' rather than 'Covid-19 and other potential epidemics'.

While anxiety about Russia and China has overtaken many threats, Australians continue to express a high level of concern over other non-traditional security threats. Two-thirds of the population (64%) say ‘cyberattacks from other countries’ pose a critical threat to Australia’s vital interests. A similar number of Australians (62%) say climate change poses a critical threat, steady from last year.

By contrast, Australians’ concern about ‘Covid-19 and other potential epidemics’ continues on a downward trajectory. In 2022, only 42% say Covid-19 and other potential epidemics pose a critical threat to Australia’s vital interests in the next ten years. This marks a dramatic 17-point fall from 2021 (59%), and is 34 points below the 2020 result (76%) at the outset of the pandemic.

As North Korea continues to enhance its nuclear weapons capabilities, the majority of Australians (58%) consider North Korea’s nuclear program to be a critical threat. A smaller proportion of Australians (48%) view international terrorism as a critical threat.

At a time of record levels of support for democracy, Australians are increasingly concerned about rising authoritarianism. In 2022, a majority (55%) say ‘the rise of authoritarian systems of government around the world’ poses a critical threat to Australia’s vital interests, a substantial 14-point increase since 2020 (41%). However, concern about ‘foreign interference in Australian politics’ has stabilised, with 49% saying foreign interference poses a critical threat.

The Australian public appear to be increasingly concerned about the economy, with 55% saying ‘a severe downturn in the global economy’ poses a critical threat to Australia’s interests, which has risen five points since 2021 (50%).

Only a third of Australians (34%) regard ‘political instability in the United States’ as a critical threat. However, a majority (56%) say political instability in Australia’s treaty ally poses ‘an important but not critical’ threat.

Foreign influence in Australia’s political processes

Many Australians continue to express concern about foreign influence on the country’s political processes. Eight in ten Australians (86%) say they are concerned about China’s influence on Australia’s political processes, a four-point increase from 2020, and 23 points higher than the level of concern expressed in 2018. Fewer Australians, though still a majority (54%), express concern about the influence of the United States on Australia’s political processes, a seven-point decline since 2020.

Explore

Foreign influence in Australian politics

Are you personally concerned or not concerned about the influence of each of the following countries on Australia’s political processes?

  1. 60%
  2. 40%
  3. 20%
  4. 0%
  5. 20%
  6. 40%
  7. 60%
  8. 80%
  9. 100%
China
2018
34
63
2020
18
82
2022
13
86
United States
2018
40
58
2020
38
61
2022
45
54

In 2020, this question was fielded in a separate Lowy Institute nationwide poll in November 2020: see Lowy Institute Poll 2021 Methodology for more information.

Security and defence policy

AUKUS and the Quad

On 16 September 2021, the leaders of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States announced the creation of a trilateral security partnership called AUKUS. A slim majority of Australians (52%) say AUKUS will make Australia safer. Around one in five (22%) say AUKUS will make no difference to Australia’s safety, and 7% say the partnership will make Australia less safe. There are partisan differences to these responses: 70% of Australians who lean towards the Liberal and National parties say AUKUS will make Australia safer, a view shared by only 47% of Australians who lean towards the Labor Party and 44% who lean towards the Greens.

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AUKUS

Thinking now about Australia’s partnerships in the world. Do you think AUKUS, the security partnership between Australia, the United States and United Kingdom, will make Australia/our region more safe, less safe or make no difference?

  1. 0%
  2. 25%
  3. 50%
  4. 75%
  5. 100%
Australia
52
22
7
8
11
Our region
49
24
8
8
11

Australians appear to see the implications of AUKUS in the region in a similar light. Around half (49%) say AUKUS will make the region more safe, 24% say the partnership will make no difference, and 8% say it will make the region less safe. A minority of Australians (11%) say they are not sure about AUKUS, and a similar proportion (8%) say they have never heard of AUKUS.

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The Quad

Do you think the Quad, the partnership between Australia, India, Japan and the United States, will make Australia/our region more safe, less safe or make no difference?

  1. 0%
  2. 25%
  3. 50%
  4. 75%
  5. 100%
Australia
53
20
4
12
10
Our region
52
21
5
12
11

In 2021, the leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the United States convened in person as the Quad grouping. A slim majority of Australians say the Quad will make Australia (53%) and our region (52%) safer. One in five Australians say the Quad will make no difference to Australia (20%) or to the region (21%). Only a small proportion of Australians say the Quad will make Australia (4%) or the region (5%) less safe. One in ten Australians are unsure about the Quad’s impact on Australia (10%) and the region (11%), and 12% of Australians have never heard of the Quad. The Quad Leaders’ Tokyo Summit took place in May 2022, after the fieldwork for this poll had been completed.

Nuclear-powered submarines and nuclear weapons

The first announcement under AUKUS was Australia’s plan to acquire at least eight nuclear-powered submarines for operation by the Royal Australian Navy. Seven in ten Australians (70%) are strongly or somewhat in favour of this decision, while 28% say they are against the acquisition. This comes at a time when the number of Australians who want defence spending to be increased has jumped 20 points since 2019 to 51%.

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Acquiring nuclear-powered submarines

Now a question about submarines that are powered by nuclear energy, but do not have nuclear weapons. Are you in favour or against Australia acquiring nuclear-powered submarines?

Strongly in favour 33Somewhat in favour 37Somewhat against 17Strongly against 11Neither in favournor against

The AUKUS initiative was announced by the former Coalition government. The acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines receives strong support from Australians who lean towards the Liberal and National parties (87%), while 65% of Australians who lean towards the Labor Party are in favour of the decision. Only 42% of Australians who lean towards the Greens are in favour of the acquisition.

In 2022, 36% of Australians are strongly or somewhat in favour of ‘Australia acquiring nuclear weapons in the future’, while 63% are either somewhat or strongly against the acquisition of nuclear weapons.

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Acquiring nuclear weapons

Thinking now about Australia’s defence. Would you be in favour or against Australia acquiring nuclear weapons in the future?

Strongly in favour 11Somewhat in favour 25Somewhat against 24Strongly against 39

In the 2010 Lowy Institute Poll, responding to a different question, only 16% of Australians said they would support acquiring nuclear weapons ‘if some of Australia’s near neighbours were to begin to develop nuclear weapons’.

Foreign military in Australia

As the United States is committing to send more platforms to Australia, 63% of Australians are either strongly or somewhat in favour of allowing the United States ‘to base military forces here in Australia’. This is an increase of eight points since 2011, when the former Prime Minister Julia Gillard and President Barack Obama announced the first rotation of US troops through Darwin. Even more Australians (67%) are in favour of the United Kingdom basing military forces in Australia.

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Foreign military based in Australia

Are you personally in favour or against Australia allowing the following countries to base military forces here in Australia?

  1. 0%
  2. 25%
  3. 50%
  4. 75%
  5. 100%
United Kingdom
2022
22
45
21
11
United States
2011
20
35
21
22
2013
26
35
17
17
5
2022
22
41
22
14

Dashed line indicates change in mode: see Methodology.

Australia–France relations

The announcement of the AUKUS partnership saw Australia cancel plans to acquire submarines from the French contractor Naval Group. This led to tensions in the bilateral relationship between Australia and France. Around half of Australians (49%) say both countries are equally to blame for the tensions in the Australia–France relationship. A third (35%) say Australia is more to blame, and 12% say France is more to blame. Australians also continue to hold high levels of trust in France and confidence in French President Macron.

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Tensions in the Australia-France relationship

Now thinking about Australia’s relationship with France. Which country is more to blame for the tensions in the Australia–France relationship?

Australia is moreto blame 35They are equally toblame 49France is more toblame 12Don’t know 4

Use of Australian military forces

As Australians increasingly express concern about a potential conflict between the United States and China over Taiwan, a slim majority of Australians (51%) would favour using the Australian military ‘if China invaded Taiwan and the United States decided to intervene’. This marks an eight-point increase since the question was last asked in 2019.

Four in ten Australians (40%) say Australia should deploy its military ‘if Russia invaded one of its neighbours’. This is nine points higher than in 2017.

Eight in ten (79%) support using the military ‘to stop a government from committing genocide and killing large numbers of its own people’. Three-quarters of Australians (75%) support using Australia’s military ‘to restore law and order in a Pacific nation’.

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Use of Australian military forces

There has been some discussion about the circumstances that might justify using Australian military forces in other parts of the world. Please give your opinion about the following situations. Would you personally be in favour or against the use of Australian military forces:

  1. 80%
  2. 60%
  3. 40%
  4. 20%
  5. 0%
  6. 20%
  7. 40%
  8. 60%
  9. 80%
To stop a government from committing genocide and killing large numbers of its own people
2017
20
76
2019
19
80
2022
19
79
To restore law and order in a Pacific nation
2017
18
77
2019
21
77
2022
23
75
To conduct freedom of navigation naval operations in the South China Sea and other disputed areas claimed by China
2017
19
68
2019
36
60
2022
38
60
If China invaded Taiwan and the United States decided to intervene
2019
54
43
2022
47
51
To fight against violent extremist groups in the Middle East
2022
57
41
If Russia invaded one of its neighbours
2017
62
31
2022
58
40

In 2017, the question asked ‘In response to China’s increasing military activities in the South China Sea, the United States has been conducting military operations designed to ensure freedom of navigation in the region. Are you personally in favour or against Australia conducting similar operations in an effort to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea?’ In 2017 and 2019, the question asked ‘To fight against violent extremist groups in Iraq and Syria’.
Dashed line indicates change in mode: see Methodology.

As in previous years, the majority of Australians (60%) support the Australian military being used ‘to conduct freedom of navigation naval operations in the South China Sea and other disputed areas claimed by China’.

However, the willingness of Australians to support deployment of the military to the Middle East has declined in recent years. Four in ten Australians (41%) say the Australian military should be used ‘to fight against violent extremist groups in the Middle East’, a nine-point decline from 2019 and 20 points lower than the level of support in 2017.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Concern about Russian foreign policy

Australians have watched Russia’s invasion of Ukraine closely, and express very high levels of concern about the war. In a separate April 2022 survey, almost all Australians (92%) say they are ‘very’ or ‘somewhat concerned’ about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Of this number, a sizeable 69% say they are ‘very concerned’ by the invasion.

In February 2022, the leaders of Russia and China held a high-level summit, prior to Russia invading Ukraine. Most Australians (87%) say they are concerned about China–Russia cooperation, with a majority (56%) saying they are ‘very concerned’ about the relationship between the two countries.

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Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Now thinking about world events. To what extent are you concerned or not concerned about:

  1. 0%
  2. 25%
  3. 50%
  4. 75%
  5. 100%
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
69
23
4
China-Russia cooperation
56
31
9
4
India-Russia cooperation
28
44
22
6

This question was fielded in a separate Lowy Institute nationwide poll in April 2022: see Methodology for more information.

Looking at the relationship between Russia and India, seven in ten Australians (72%) say they are very or somewhat concerned about India–Russia cooperation. Only 28% of Australians say they are ‘very concerned’ by this partnership.

These high levels of concern align with Australian reactions to Russia across the entire 2022 Lowy Institute Poll. This year, 68% of Australians say Russia’s foreign policy poses a critical threat to Australia’s interests, putting Russia at the top of the list of threats. This represents a remarkable 36-point jump since 2017. At the same time, only 6% of Australians express confidence in Russia’s President Putin, and 5% trust Russia to act responsibly in the world.

Russia also sits at the bottom of the Lowy Institute ‘feelings thermometer’ for the first time, registering an icy 19°, a 22-degree drop in a single year. By contrast, Ukraine receives a very warm reading of 69°, 18 degrees higher than the last time it featured on the thermometer in 2015.

Australia’s response to the war in Ukraine

Australians are broadly supportive of the policies that the Australian government has put in place following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Nine in ten Australians (90%) say they strongly or somewhat support ‘admitting Ukrainian refugees into Australia’. The same proportion of Australians (89%) support ‘keeping strict sanctions on Russia’. A large majority of Australians (83%) also support Australia ‘providing military aid to Ukraine’.

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Australia’s response to the war in Ukraine

Thinking more about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, would you support or oppose Australia:

  1. 0%
  2. 25%
  3. 50%
  4. 75%
  5. 100%
Keeping strict sanctions on Russia
69
20
5
4
Admitting Ukrainian refugees into Australia
61
29
7
Providing military aid to Ukraine
52
31
10
6

This question was fielded in a separate Lowy Institute nationwide poll in April 2022: see Methodology for more information.

Relations with superpowers: China and the United States

China

As Australia’s relationship with China has declined, public opinion towards China has fallen sharply. In recent years, Australians have increasingly viewed China’s economic growth as a negative, while they have historically been concerned about China’s human rights record and military.

Trust, warmth and confidence in China and China’s leader started to decline in 2017, and continue to remain at record lows in 2022. There is also increased concern about the potential for China to pose a military threat in the region and to Australia.

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China as a military threat

Do you think it is likely or unlikely that China will become a military threat to Australia in the next 20 years?

  1. 0%
  2. 40%
  3. 80%
2009
15
26
41
2010
19
27
46
2011
18
26
44
2012
14
26
40
2013
16
25
41
2014
19
29
48
2015
14
25
39
2017
15
31
46
2018
14
31
45
2022
32
43
75

Dashed line indicates change in mode: see Methodology.

In 2022, a substantial number of Australians are concerned about China becoming a military threat to Australia. Setting a new record by some margin, three-quarters of Australians (75%) say it is very or somewhat likely that China will become a military threat to Australia in the next 20 years, an increase of 29 points since 2018.

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China: economic partner or security threat

In your own view, is China more of an economic partner or more of a security threat to Australia?

  1. 0%
  2. 30%
  3. 60%
  4. 90%
7779825534331513124163634313
  1. 2015
  2. 2016
  3. 2017
  4. 2018
  5. 2019
  6. 2020
  7. 2021
  8. 2022

In 2015, 2017 and 2018, the question asked if China was ‘more of a military threat’.
Dotted line indicates change in mode: see Methodology.

As well as a military threat, many Australians see China as a security threat. In 2022, two-thirds of Australians (63%) say China is ‘more of a security threat’ to Australia, while 33% say China is ‘more of an economic partner’ to Australia. Both of these figures have not changed since 2021.

The United States

The public has reported high levels of support for Australia’s alliance with the United States over the 18 years of the Lowy Institute Poll, despite fluctuating levels of trust in the United States and confidence in US leaders.

Australians increasingly see conflict in our region as a possibility, which likely adds to the importance placed upon the alliance with the United States But there are also some concerns about the implications of Australia’s relationship with the United States.

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Importance of the US alliance

Thinking now about the United States. How important is our alliance relationship with the United States for Australia’s security?

  1. 0%
  2. 30%
  3. 60%
  4. 90%
2005
45
27
72
2006
42
28
70
2007
36
27
63
2008
42
34
76
2009
55
30
85
2010
56
30
86
2011
59
23
82
2012
59
28
87
2013
54
28
82
2014
52
26
78
2015
53
27
80
2016
42
29
71
2017
53
24
77
2018
48
28
76
2019
38
34
72
2020
43
35
78
2021
47
31
78
2022
60
27
87

Dashed line indicates change in mode: see Methodology.

In 2022, the number of Australians who see the ANZUS alliance as important to their security has returned to record highs. Nine in ten Australians (87%) say the alliance is ‘very important’ or ‘fairly important’ to Australia’s security. This marks a nine-point increase from 2021, and is equal to the highest levels of support expressed in 2012, during former President Barack Obama’s administration.

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Attitudes to the United States

I am now going to read you some different arguments about the alliance relationship with the United States. Please indicate whether you agree or disagree.

  1. 0%
  2. 25%
  3. 50%
  4. 75%
  5. 100%
Australia’s alliance with the United States makes it more likely Australia will be drawn into a war in Asia that would not be in Australia’s interests
2011
73
25
2015
58
37
5
2019
69
30
2022
77
21
The United States would come to Australia’s defence if Australia was under threat
2019
73
25
2021
75
23
2022
76
23
The alliance relationship with the United States makes Australia safer from attack or pressure from China
2011
57
39
4
2015
53
40
7
2019
56
42
2022
64
35

Dashed line indicates change in mode: see Methodology.

However, warmth towards and trust in the United States have not returned to the high levels that were recorded during the Obama years. More than three-quarters of Australians (77%) now agree that ‘Australia’s alliance with the United States makes it more likely Australia will be drawn into a war in Asia that would not be in Australia’s interests’, an increase of eight points since 2019. However, a similar number (76%) also agree that the United States would come to Australia’s defence if Australia were under threat. Two-thirds (64%) agree that ‘the alliance relationship with the United States makes Australia safer from attack or pressure from China’, an eight-point increase from 2019.

Military conflict between the United States and China

As Australians are increasingly concerned about potential conflict in the region, a bare majority (51%) say that Australia should remain neutral in the event of a military conflict between China and the United States. This figure has fallen six points since 2021. Almost half (46%) say Australia should support the United States in such a conflict, a five-point increase from last year. Only 1% say Australia should support China.

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Military conflict between China and United States

In the event of a military conflict between China and United States, please say which one of the following statements comes closest to your own personal view.

  1. 0%
  2. 25%
  3. 50%
  4. 75%
  5. 100%
2021
41
57
2022
46
51

As in 2021, there is a generational difference on this question. More than half the population aged over 45 (55%) say Australia should support the United States, while only 36% of Australians aged 18–44 agree with that approach. Younger Australians are more likely to say Australia should remain neutral, with six in ten Australians aged 18–44 (60%) choosing this position. Only 43% of Australians aged 45 and over prefer neutrality.

Democracy at home and abroad

Democracies around the world

At a time when Australian leaders are increasingly discussing the importance of liberal democracies, Australians are more likely than ever to be aware of other democracies in the region. There have been substantial increases in the number of Australians who agree that Taiwan, India, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea are democracies. At the same time, the number of Australians who agree that Hong Kong and China are democracies has declined.

Australians continue to see traditional partners as democracies. The vast majority of Australians (92%) agree that the United Kingdom is a democracy. The percentage of Australians who see the United States as a democracy has increased six points from 2020 to 87%. More Australians in 2022 also see Japan as a democracy (84%), an increase of five points from 2020. More Australians also now see Japan as Australia’s best friend in Asia.

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Democracies around the world

Here is a list of countries and territories. For each one, please indicate whether you agree or disagree that the country or territory is a democracy.

  1. 0%
  2. 25%
  3. 50%
  4. 75%
  5. 100%
United Kingdom
2020
90
8
2022
92
6
United States
2020
81
17
2022
87
11
Japan
2020
79
18
3
2022
84
13
Taiwan
2020
52
43
4
2022
68
28
4
India
2020
57
40
4
2022
68
28
4
Papua New Guinea
2020
53
42
4
2022
63
32
5
Indonesia
2020
39
58
3
2022
48
47
5
Hong Kong
2020
37
60
3
2022
28
68
4
China
2020
10
88
2022
7
91

In line with Australians’ increasing concerns about a conflict over Taiwan, seven in ten (68%) now agree that Taiwan is a democracy, an increase of 16 points from 2020. While trust in India has declined in the past year, seven in ten Australians (68%) see India as a democracy, up 11 points from 2020. Six in ten Australians (63%) also say Papua New Guinea is a democracy, a ten-point increase from 2020.

The Lowy Institute Poll has surveyed Australians on their views about Indonesia for 18 years, and their responses have started to demonstrate growing awareness about our largest neighbour. Lowy Institute polling has consistently shown that most Australians do not view Indonesia as a democracy. In 2022, the level of awareness about Indonesia as a democracy has reached a new record high, with 48% agreeing Indonesia is a democracy, a nine-point increase from 2020.

After a year in which media groups have been shut down and elections limited, fewer Australians (28%) see Hong Kong as a democracy, a decline of nine points since 2020. Only 7% of Australians agree that China is a democracy, a three-point fall from 2020.

Attitudes to democracy

In 2022, Australians’ preference for democracy has reached a record high. Three-quarters of Australians (74%) say ‘democracy is preferable to any other kind of government’, an increase of nine points from 2019. One in five (18%) say that ‘in some circumstances, a non-democratic government can be preferable’. In an election year in Australia, only 7% say ‘for someone like me, it doesn’t matter what kind of government we have’, the lowest level in the history of the Lowy Institute Poll.

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Attitudes to democracy

Now a question about democracy. Below are some statements about democracy. Please indicate which one of the three statements comes closest to your own personal views about democracy.

  1. 0%
  2. 40%
  3. 80%
60596065616062657174232624182420202216181513131512161512117
  1. 2012
  2. 2013
  3. 2014
  4. 2015
  5. 2016
  6. 2017
  7. 2018
  8. 2019
  9. 2020
  10. 2021
  11. 2022

In 2020, this question was fielded in a separate Lowy Institute nationwide poll in November 2020: see Lowy Institute Poll 2021 methodology for more information.
Dotted line indicates change in mode: see Methodology.

The gap between older and younger Australians on the importance of democracy — prominent in previous Lowy Institute polling — appears to have almost disappeared. In 2022, seven in ten Australians aged 18–29 (70%) express a preference for democracy, compared with 74% of Australians aged over 30. In previous years, this gap has been as large as 28 points.

Economic outlook, globalisation and trade

Economic optimism

Along with increased concerns about safety and security, Australians have downgraded their view of Australia’s economic prospects. In 2022, six in ten Australians (62%) say they are ‘very optimistic’ or ‘optimistic’ about Australia’s economic performance in the world over the next five years. This represents a 17-point fall from 2021, but remains ten points ahead of the record low in economic optimism experienced by Australians in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 at 52%.

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Economic optimism

Thinking about Australia’s economic performance in the world. Overall, how optimistic are you about Australia’s economic performance in the world over the next five years?

  1. 0%
  2. 30%
  3. 60%
  4. 90%
2005
14
53
67
2007
19
52
71
2008
11
65
76
2009
16
70
86
2010
19
67
86
2012
12
61
73
2013
14
62
76
2015
9
54
63
2016
9
61
70
2017
9
65
74
2019
5
60
65
2020
3
49
52
2021
10
69
79
2022
5
57
62

A neutral option was offered to respondents in 2005 and 2007.
Dashed line indicates change in mode: see Methodology.

Levels of optimism about the economy in the Australian public have often mirrored Australian perceptions of the global economy. In 2022, the majority of Australians (55%) say ‘a severe downturn in the global economy’ poses a critical threat to Australia’s interests, which has risen five points since 2021, but remains 16 points below the record high of 71% in 2020.

Globalisation

Australians have generally rejected the global trend towards protectionist and anti-globalisation sentiments experienced in other countries over the past decade. This continues in 2022, despite the ongoing pandemic and increases in the cost of living in Australia. Seven in ten Australians (73%) continue to say globalisation is mostly good for Australia, a marginal three-point increase from 2020. This result remains six points below 2009, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, where 79% of Australians said globalisation was mostly good.

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Globalisation

Now on globalisation. Do you believe that globalisation, especially the increasing connections of our economy with others around the world, is mostly good or mostly bad for Australia?

  1. 0%
  2. 40%
  3. 80%
6472797872707328231815242923
  1. 2006
  2. 2007
  3. 2008
  4. 2009
  5. 2010
  6. 2011
  7. 2012
  8. 2013
  9. 2014
  10. 2015
  11. 2016
  12. 2017
  13. 2018
  14. 2019
  15. 2020
  16. 2021
  17. 2022

In 2020, this question was asked as part of COVIDpoll by the Lowy Institute: see 2021 Lowy Institute Poll Methodology for more information.
Dotted line indicates change in mode: see Methodology.

Only a small gap exists between urban and regional residents on this question. Three-quarters of Australians who live in urban areas (75%) say globalisation is mostly good for Australia, whereas this view is held by 69% of Australians who live in regional or rural areas.

Free trade

Support for free trade continues to be on an upward trajectory in Australia. Eight in ten Australians (80%) say free trade is good for their standard of living, a five-point increase from 2019. More than seven in ten Australians say free trade is good for the Australian economy (78%, a seven-point increase from 2019) and for Australian companies (71%, a six-point increase from 2019). Two-thirds of Australians (66%) also say that free trade is good for ‘creating jobs in Australia’, a five-point increase since 2019.

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Support for free trade

Overall, do you personally think free trade is good or bad for each of the following:

  1. 0%
  2. 25%
  3. 50%
  4. 75%
  5. 100%
Your own standard of living
2017
67
16
16
2019
75
20
4
2022
80
16
3
The Australian economy
2017
67
23
10
2019
71
25
4
2022
78
18
3
Australian companies
2017
60
28
11
2019
65
31
4
2022
71
26
Creating jobs in Australia
2017
55
35
10
2019
61
35
4
2022
66
31

Dashed line indicates change in mode: see Methodology.

Covid-19 pandemic and immigration

Covid-19 handling

Australians are now far less likely to see Covid-19 as a threat to Australia’s interests than in previous years. Public attitudes towards various countries’ approaches to the pandemic have also shifted. Australians are overwhelmingly positive about New Zealand’s handling of the pandemic, with 92% saying they have handled it ‘very well’ or ‘fairly well’. Most Australians (84%) say Singapore has also handled the pandemic well.

Eight in ten Australians (80%) continue to say that Australia has handled the pandemic well, though this is a 15-point decline from 2021. The strength of that sentiment has also shifted substantially, with only 24% of Australians saying that Australia has handled the pandemic ‘very well’ in 2022, compared to 65% in 2021.

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Global responses to Covid-19

Overall, how well or badly do you think each of the following countries have handled the Covid-19 pandemic so far?

  1. 0%
  2. 25%
  3. 50%
  4. 75%
  5. 100%
New Zealand
2022
51
41
6
3
Singapore
2022
25
59
10
4
Australia
2021
65
30
4
2022
24
56
14
5
China
2021
12
33
22
30
2022
10
35
27
27
United Kingdom
2021
18
49
31
2022
3
36
46
14
United States
2021
7
24
68
2022
23
43
31

In 2020 and 2021, this question asked ‘Overall how well or badly do you think each of the following countries has handled the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak so far?’

Australians have mixed views of China’s handling of the pandemic, with 45% saying China has handled Covid-19 well and 54% saying it has been handled badly. The number of Australians who say China has handled Covid-19 well is unchanged since 2021, but is 14 points higher than Australians’ initial response to China’s handling of Covid-19 in 2020. The 2022 survey was fielded prior to the recent lockdowns in Shanghai and other cities in China.

In previous polling, Australians have had a very poor view of how the United States and the United Kingdom have handled the pandemic. This has improved in 2022, from a low base. Four in ten (39%) say the United Kingdom has handled the pandemic well, an increase of 20 points from 2021. The United States continues to sit at the bottom of this list of countries, with 25% saying the United States has done well, an 18-point improvement since last year.

Immigration and openness

Following two years of closed borders during the pandemic, Australians appear to be shifting towards more openness and immigration. Seven in ten Australians (68%) say ‘Australia’s openness to people from all over the world is essential to who we are as a nation’, a 15-point increase from 2018. Fewer Australians (31%) now say ‘if Australia is too open to people from all over the world, we risk losing our identity as a nation’, a ten-point decline over the past four years.

There is a significant difference across generations on this question. Eight in ten Australians aged 18–44 (79%) see openness as essential to Australia’s identity, while this is a view held by 58% of Australians aged over 45.

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Immigration and national identity

Next, indicate whether the first statement or the second statement comes closer to your own views, even if neither is exactly right:

  1. 0%
  2. 25%
  3. 50%
  4. 75%
  5. 100%
2018
53
41
5
2022
68
31

Post-pandemic immigration

The number of Australians calling for reduced immigration also appears to have declined over the course of the pandemic. When asked about restarting Australia’s immigration program now that borders have reopened, 46% say that the number of immigrants allowed into Australia should be ‘around the same as pre-Covid levels’. A third of Australians (33%) say immigration should be ‘lower than pre-Covid levels’, and 21% say ‘higher than pre-Covid levels’. In 2019, prior to the pandemic, in response to a different question, 47% of Australians said immigration levels were ‘too high’, while 40% said the rate of immigration was about right.

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Post-pandemic immigration

Thinking now about the pause in Australia’s immigration during the pandemic. Now that borders have reopened, over the next 12 months, do you think the number of immigrants allowed into Australia should be:

Higher than pre-Covidlevels 21Around the same aspre-Covid levels 46Lower than pre-Covidlevels 33Don’t know / no view

Climate change and energy

Global warming

The majority of Australians continue to express concern about climate change in 2022. Six in ten Australians (60%) say ‘global warming is a serious and pressing problem’ about which ‘we should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs’. This is unchanged from 2021, and remains eight points below the highest level of concern expressed in 2006 (68%). Three in ten Australians (29%) say the ‘problem of global warming should be addressed, but its effects will be gradual, so we can deal with the problem gradually by taking steps that are low in cost’, while 10% say that ‘until we are sure that global warming is really a problem, we should not take any steps that would have economic costs’.

The number of Australians (62%) who say climate change poses a critical threat to Australia’s vital interests in the next ten years has also remained stable since 2021. Three-quarters of Australians (75%) support providing aid to Pacific Island states to take action on climate change.

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Attitudes to global warming

There is a controversy over what the countries of the world, including Australia, should do about the problem of global warming. Please tell me which statement comes closest to your own point of view?

  1. 0%
  2. 10%
  3. 20%
  4. 30%
  5. 40%
  6. 50%
  7. 60%
  8. 70%
78131319181615121191010109102432394040454438383637312834302968604846413640455053545961566060
  1. 2006
  2. 2007
  3. 2008
  4. 2009
  5. 2010
  6. 2011
  7. 2012
  8. 2013
  9. 2014
  10. 2015
  11. 2016
  12. 2017
  13. 2018
  14. 2019
  15. 2020
  16. 2021
  17. 2022

Dotted line indicates change in mode: see Methodology.

Potential federal government policies on climate change

Looking at a range of possible federal government policies, nine in ten Australians (90%) say they would support the federal government ‘providing subsidies for the development of renewable energy technology’, which is unchanged from 2021.

Eight in ten Australians (77%) support Australia ‘committing to a more ambitious emissions target for 2030’. Three-quarters (75%) say they also support Australia hosting a United Nations Climate Conference. The Labor government said during the election campaign that it would bid to host a COP in partnership with other Pacific nations if it formed government.

A sizeable majority of Australians (64%) support introducing an emissions trading scheme or a carbon tax. These views have shifted significantly in the past six years. In response to a different question in 2016, only 40% said they would prefer the government to introduce an emissions trading scheme or price on carbon.

In recent years, Australian views of coal exports and coal mines have shifted. Six in ten Australians (65%) say they would support reducing Australian coal exports to other countries. In 2016, a majority (66%) said Australia should continue to export coal, in response to a different question.

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Potential federal government policies on climate change

Would you support or oppose the following federal government policies?

  1. 0%
  2. 25%
  3. 50%
  4. 75%
  5. 100%
Providing subsidies for the development of renewable energy technologies
2021
91
8
2022
90
9
Committing to a more ambitious emissions reduction target for 2030
2022
77
21
Hosting a United Nations Climate Conference in Australia
2022
75
22
Reducing Australian coal exports to other countries
2021
63
33
3
2022
65
33
Introducing an emissions trading scheme or a carbon tax
2021
64
33
3
2022
64
33
3
Banning new coal mines from opening in Australia
2021
63
34
2022
63
34
Increasing the use of gas for Australia’s energy generation
2021
58
38
3
2022
59
37
3
Removing the existing ban on nuclear power
2021
47
51
2022
52
45
3
Providing subsidies for building new coal-fired power plants
2021
30
67
2022
33
65

This question was fielded in a separate Lowy Institute nationwide poll in April 2022: see Methodology for more information.

Six in ten Australians (63%) support introducing a ban on new coal mines opening in Australia, unchanged from 2021. Urban residents are more likely to support a ban on new coal mines, with 66% of Australians in urban areas supporting such a ban, compared to 57% of Australians living in regional and rural areas. In 2022, a third of Australians (33%) say they support the federal government providing subsidies for building new coal-fired power plants.

On a number of these policies, there is a large gap between support from younger and older Australians. For example, 70% of Australians aged 18–44 support banning new coal mines, compared to 57% of Australians aged over 45. Similarly, 71% of respondents aged 18–44 support imposing a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme, compared to 57% of Australians aged over 45.

The majority of Australians (59%) continue to be in favour of ‘increasing the use of gas for Australia’s energy generation’.

Australians are split over the question of nuclear power, which has been prohibited in Australia since 1998. A slim majority (52%) would support removing the existing ban on nuclear power, a five-point increase from 2021. Almost half (45%) would oppose this decision, which represents a six-point decline in the past year.

Australian foreign policy and foreign aid

Budget priorities

At a time when Australia has made substantial commitments in defence spending, a slim majority of Australians (51%) say defence spending should be increased. This marks a sizeable 20-point increase since 2019 in the proportion of Australians who want to increase defence expenditure.

Nonetheless, Australians continue to prioritise domestic spending over foreign policy issues when considering the federal budget. A large majority of Australians would increase spending in health (83%) and education (69%) if they were making up the budget for the federal government. More than half (56%) say spending on social welfare should be increased, up nine points since 2019.

Australians are divided when it comes to border protection, with 39% saying Australia should increase spending, a seven-point lift since 2019. However, more Australians (44%) say spending on border protection should be kept at about the current level.

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Budget priorities

Now about the federal budget. If you were making up the budget for the federal government this year, would you personally increase spending, decrease spending or keep spending about the same for:

  1. 0%
  2. 25%
  3. 50%
  4. 75%
  5. 100%
Health
2019
81
16
2022
83
15
Education
2019
74
23
3
2022
69
28
3
Social welfare
2019
47
37
16
2022
56
32
11
Defence
2019
31
47
21
2022
51
36
13
Border protection
2019
32
52
16
2022
39
44
16
Foreign aid
2019
17
36
47
2022
24
42
34

Foreign aid has not historically been popular with the Australian public. In 2022, cuts to the aid budget have become less popular. Four in ten (42%) say spending on foreign aid should be kept around current levels, an increase of six points since 2019. A third (34%) continue to say that foreign aid spending should be decreased, representing a 13-point fall since 2019. Around a quarter of Australians (24%) say Australia should increase spending on foreign aid, an increase of seven points since 2019.

Foreign aid to the Pacific

While many Australians have been wary of foreign aid in the past, in 2022, Australians are overwhelmingly in favour of Australia providing foreign aid to Pacific Island states. Almost all Australians (93%) are in favour of providing aid for disaster relief. The provision of aid for Covid-19 vaccines also receives high levels of support, with 86% of Australians saying they are in favour. This aligns with attitudes in 2021, where 83% of Australians said Australia should help Pacific countries to pay for Covid-19 vaccines.

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Foreign aid to the Pacific

Thinking specifically about foreign aid to Pacific Island nations. Would you personally be in favour or against Australia providing aid for the following purpose:

  1. 0%
  2. 25%
  3. 50%
  4. 75%
  5. 100%
Disaster relief
93
7
Covid-19 vaccines
86
14
Long-term economic development
84
15
To help prevent China from increasing its influence in the Pacific
82
16
Climate change action
75
25

There is also strong support for Australia to play a role in building strong economies in the Pacific. Eight in ten Australians (84%) favour providing aid to the Pacific for long-term economic development, and 82% favour providing aid ‘to help prevent China from increasing its influence in the Pacific’. In a different question in 2019, 73% said Australia should try to prevent China from increasing its influence in the Pacific.

Three-quarters of Australians (75%) are in favour of providing aid to Pacific Island states for climate change action. The same number (75%) support Australia hosting a UN Climate Conference, which has been floated as a proposal that could involve Australia co-hosting with Pacific Island nations.

Potential Chinese military base in the Pacific

The Australian public share the government’s concerns about the potential for a Chinese military base in the Pacific. In a nationwide poll in April 2022, 88% of Australians say they are either ‘very‘ or ‘somewhat’ concerned about ‘China potentially opening a military base in a Pacific Island country’. A security agreement between Solomon Islands and China was signed in April during the fieldwork for this poll, and media had also reported on a leaked draft security agreement in late March, prior to fieldwork. In a different question in 2019, a smaller majority of Australians (55%) said China opening a military base in a Pacific Island country would pose a critical threat to Australia’s vital interests in the next ten years.

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Potential Chinese military base in the Pacific

Now thinking about world events. To what extent are you concerned or not concerned about China potentially opening a military base in a Pacific Island country?

Very concerned 60Somewhat concerned 28Not too concerned 9Not at all concerned 3

This question was fielded in a separate Lowy Institute nationwide poll in April 2022: see Methodology for more information.

Foreign policy priorities

The public hold mixed views on the question of which partners, regions and forums should be the highest priority for Australia’s foreign policy. Four in ten Australians (43%) say that ‘focusing on Australia’s region, including Asia and the Pacific’ should be the highest priority for the federal government’s foreign policy. A third (33%) prioritise a globalist approach, saying that the government’s highest priority should be ‘focusing on global cooperation through multilateral institutions, including the United Nations’. Only one in five (20%) say Australia’s focus should be on ‘cooperation with Western countries and traditional partners, including the United States’.

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Australia’s foreign policy priorities

Which of the following should be the highest priority for the federal government’s foreign policy?

  1. 0%
  2. 25%
  3. 50%
Focusing on Australia’s region, including Asia and the Pacific
43
Focusing on global cooperation through multilateral institutions, including the United Nations
33
Focusing on cooperation with Western countries and traditional partners, including the United States
20
Don’t know
4

This question was fielded in a separate Lowy Institute nationwide poll in April 2022: see Methodology for more information.

Feelings thermometer

For the first time, Russia has fallen to the bottom of the Lowy Institute ‘feelings thermometer’, a measurement of Australians’ perceptions about countries, territories and institutions on a scale of 0° (coldest feelings) to 100° (warmest feelings).

Russia registers an icy 19°, a 22-degree drop in a single year, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This represents the greatest single-year fall in the history of the Lowy Institute Poll feelings thermometer.

By contrast, Australians feel very warmly towards Ukraine, with the country receiving a reading of 69°, 18 degrees higher than the last time Ukraine featured on the thermometer in 2015. Australians feel the same level of warmth towards France (69°).

While Russia has replaced China at the bottom of the feelings thermometer, feelings towards China in 2022 remain very cool at 33°. Australian views of Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover of the country remain largely unchanged at a cool 36°. Attitudes towards Myanmar have warmed marginally since 2021, marking a five-degree improvement to reach 46°.

Both India and Indonesia receive warm readings of 57°, marking Indonesia’s highest result in 17 years. Australians feel warmly towards the United Nations and the European Union, registering 61° and 62° respectively.

South Korea (63°), Taiwan (64°) and Vietnam (64°) all receive warm readings in 2022. Feelings towards Papua New Guinea are stable at 61°, and Tonga registers 67°. Feelings towards the United States have warmed three degrees to 65° in the second year of the Biden administration.

Feelings towards Japan (74°), the United Kingdom (77°) and Canada (80°) remain very warm in 2022. This year, New Zealand again leads the feelings thermometer, receiving a very warm 86°, steady from 2021.

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Feelings towards other nations

Please rate your feelings towards some countries and territories, with one hundred meaning a very warm, favourable feeling, zero meaning a very cold, unfavourable feeling, and fifty meaning not particularly warm or cold. You can use any number from zero to one hundred: the higher the number the more favourable your feelings are toward that country or territory. If you have no opinion or have never heard of that country or territory, please say so.

  1. 90°
  2. 80°
  3. 70°
  4. 60°
  5. 50°
  6. 40°
  7. 30°
  1. 86° New Zealand
  2. 80° Canada
  3. 77° United Kingdom
  4. 74° Japan
  5. 69° France, Ukraine
  6. 67° Tonga
  7. 65° United States
  8. 64° Taiwan, Vietnam
  9. 63° South Korea
  10. 62° European Union
  11. 61° Papua New Guinea, United Nations
  12. 57° India, Indonesia
  13. 46° Myanmar (Burma)
  14. 36° Afghanistan
  15. 33° China
  16. 19° Russia

In 2006, this question asked respondents about their feelings towards ‘countries and peoples’. From 2007 to 2018, this question asked respondents about their feelings towards ‘countries’. Until 2015, this question asked respondents about ‘Great Britain’, and from 2015 to 2019, respondents were asked about ‘United Kingdom (Great Britain)’. Until 2019, this question asked respondents about ‘Myanmar/Burma’.

Methodology

The methodology for the Lowy Institute Poll 2022 is available here.


Acknowledgements

Several questions in this report were modelled on those developed by other polling organisations, including the Pew Research Center, Australian Election Study, Scanlon Foundation Research Institute, Ipsos MORI, Essential, and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Fieldwork was managed by Matilda Page and Karly Day of the Social Research Centre. Andrew Ward, Benjamin Phillips, Dina Neiger, Jack Barton and Storm Logan of the Social Research Centre provided design and weighting advice. John Davis of OmniPoll provided independent consulting and reviewed the questionnaires and report. Stephen Hutchings designed the interactive website. Clare Caldwell at the Lowy Institute edited the report.