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. 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. 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.
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.
14 questions match this theme
Security and defence
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?
Satisfaction with democracy in Australia
On the whole, are you very satisfied, fairly satisfied, not very satisfied or not at all satisfied with the way democracy works in Australia?
Democracy or economy
Still on democracy, if you had to choose between a good democracy and a strong economy for Australia, which one would you personally choose?
Reasons for not preferring democracy
For each of the following please say whether it is a major reason, a minor reason or not a reason why you personally think that [In some circumstances, a non-democratic government can be preferable OR For someone like me, it doesn’t matter what kind of government we have]:
Republic and head of state
Now about the possibility of Australia becoming a republic. If Australia became a republic with an Australian head of state, do you personally think…
Importance of human rights in Australia
And now I will ask you about the United Nations and human rights. The United Nations has set out a number of human rights that it says apply to all people throughout the world. I am going to read you a few of these. For each one, please say whether you personally agree or disagree that it is important for you here in Australia. And is that strongly or partly?
Australian foreign policy
Goals of Australian foreign policy
Thinking about what Australian foreign policy should be trying to achieve, I am going to read a list of goals, and ask you to tell me how important each one is for Australia.
Indonesia as a threat
Do you think Indonesia is more of a threat to Australia or less of a threat than it was 15 years ago, or has there been no change?
Trajectory of Indonesia's democracy
Do you think Indonesia is more open and democratic or, less open and democratic today compared to say 15 years ago or is it about the same?