Australia and New Zealand in the world: public opinion and foreign policy

5 Jun 2012

The 2012 Lowy Institute Poll reports the results of a nationally representative opinion survey of 1,005 Australian adults conducted in Australia between 26 March and 10 April 2012 using mobile and landline telephones.

It also reports the results of a parallel survey conducted in New Zealand by the Asia New Zealand Foundation.
Executive Summary
Foreign investment in Australian farms
Foreign ownership of farmland looks set to continue as a hot political issue, with a large majority (81%) of Australians against the Australian government allowing foreign companies to buy Australian farmland to grow crops or farm livestock, with 63% saying they are strongly against.
Uranium sales to India
The Labor Party recently overturned its ban on the sale of uranium to India, but 61% of Australians say they are against Australia selling uranium to India, with 39% strongly against. Among Australians who say they always vote Labor, two-thirds (65%) are against it.
Relations with Fiji
Australia’s Fiji policy – that saw ministerial-level contact cut off in response to its military coup – is at odds with public wishes: a large majority (79%) are in favour of the Australian government restarting ministerial-level contacts.
Bali bombings
Almost a decade after the 2002 Bali bombings killed 202 people including 88 Australians, only 11% of Australians say the bombers have been fully brought to justice, with most (61%) saying they have only partly been brought to justice. Twenty-two per cent say they have not been brought to justice at all.
Climate change
There was bad news for the government on climate change policy. The majority (63%) of Australians say they are against the government’s legislation introducing a fixed price on carbon that will then lead to an Emissions Trading Scheme, with a high proportion (45%) strongly against. However, a third (33%) of the population oppose the legislation and agree the measures are not strict enough to result in substantial emissions reductions. A majority of Australians (57%) are in favour of a future Coalition government removing the Emissions Trading Scheme. A tracking question that presents Australians with three options for dealing with global warming reveals for the first time that those favouring an intermediate approach to the problem now outnumber Australians favouring the most aggressive form of action.
War in Afghanistan
Support for the war in Afghanistan has hit a record low, with just 33% of Australians saying Australia should continue to be involved militarily in Afghanistan, down seven points since last year. However, 55% are in favour of Australian Special Forces staying on in Afghanistan to work alongside US Special Forces in more limited counter-terrorism operations after major combat operations are scheduled to end.
Presented with six hypothetical criteria for determining which migrants should be allowed to come to Australia, those ranked as the most important are: having similar values to Australians (34%), work skills (23%), English-language skills (20%), education (11%), religion (8%) and race (4%).
US Presidential elections
Obamamania continues, with Australians preferring Barack Obama to his Republican rival Mitt Romney to become the next President of the United States by an 8 to 1 ratio (80% compared with 9%).
US military bases
After the November 2011 announcement that US Marines would be deployed to Australia, 74% of Australians say that they are in favour of up to 2,500 US soldiers being based in Darwin. Forty-six per cent are also in favour of allowing more than 2,500 soldiers to be based in Australia, and, if either China or Indonesia objected, support for increasing the number actually increased to 51% in the case of China and 54% in the case of Indonesia.
Avoiding recession
The government has struggled to sell its success helping Australia avoid recession, with 70% of Australians saying a major reason Australia managed to avoid falling into recession is demand for Australian resources from countries like China, compared with just 41% who say a major reason is good Australian government policies.
Some Australians appear blasé about democracy. Just 60% of Australians say democracy is preferable to any other kind of government, and only 39% of 18 to 29 year olds. A quarter (23%) of Australians say that in some circumstances, a non-democratic government can be preferable, and 15% that for someone like me, it doesn’t matter what kind of government we have.

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