Australia has a great deal in common with the United States. Both are settler societies, originally founded as British colonies, with a similar cultural heritage, with political systems valuing personal freedoms and democratic institutions. Shared values and a similar outlook on the world support the broad and deep relationship between the United States and Australia.
Two broad conclusions become apparent after considering the many similarities as well as striking differences between the United States and Australia.
Australians can clearly differentiate between a president and a country. As much as Australians may dislike the current US president, most Australians hold positive evaluations of the United States and of Australia’s relationship with the United States.
Second, while the United States seems so familiar to many Australians, there is clearly much about the United States that Australians don’t appreciate. In particular, conservative viewpoints in Australia generally land much closer to progressive or moderate stances than they do in the United States. In turn, on almost every issue we find greater partisan and ideological differentiation in the United States than in Australia. This needs to be remembered by Australians as we look ahead to the 2020 election, to the policy direction of the United States after the election, and to appreciate the significance of rare moments of bipartisanship in the American system, particularly in foreign policy and strategic outlook.
The data provided by this survey — and our analysis — helps Australians better understand these facets of American public opinion, politics and policy and their implications for Australia.
- Australians are more supportive than Americans of the state intervening in the economy to prevent and remedy inequality on matters spanning taxes and wages to health care and higher education (pages 11-13).
- While support for Australia is a rare instance of bipartisanship in the United States, there is partisan disagreement among Australians in their overall sentiment towards the United States. Sixty-seven per cent of Coalition supporters describe the United States as an ally of Australia, but only 53 per cent of Labor supporters do the same. This 14 point difference is by far the largest partisan difference observed in assessments of Australia’s relationships with 14 countries (pages 20-21).
- Australians are more aware of and concerned by China and Beijing’s strategic aspirations (pages 22-30) than Americans. Australians are more likely to say the United States and China are in a new Cold War (39 per cent versus 28 per cent). Furthermore, 63 per cent of Australians and 51 per cent of Americans agree that their respective country is too economically dependent on China. Australians are more likely to report concern about Chinese political interference (65 versus 56 per cent).
- More Australians than Americans support additional restrictions on gun ownership in their country, despite the fact that it is already much more difficult to obtain a gun in Australia than the United States (pages 40-42).
- Unlike Americans, most Australians support women having access to abortion as a personal choice (58 per cent of Australians to 42 per cent of Americans; pages 46-49).