Country’s public increasingly views Russia and China as threats in new poll
SYDNEY — Australia’s plan to acquire nuclear submarines under the AUKUS trilateral security partnership enjoys support from 70% of the country’s public, a poll released Tuesday shows, as a growing number of people view Russia and China as threats.
The results of an annual survey by the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based think tank, come after Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. unveiled AUKUS in September.
As part of the pact, the two other members will help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines. Lowy’s poll found 33% of respondents were “strongly in favor” of Australia obtaining the submarines, while another 37% were “somewhat in favor.”
Only 11% were “strongly against” the move while 17% were “somewhat against” it.
This contrasts sharply with the general antinuclear sentiment in Australia. A full 63% of respondents in the poll either strongly or somewhat opposed Australia acquiring nuclear weapons. Just 11% strongly favored obtaining nuclear weapons, while 25% were somewhat in favor.
Lowy asked respondents to rank a list of potential threats to Australia’s vital interests over the next decade. “Russia’s foreign policy” was picked as a critical threat — the most serious kind — by 68% in the latest poll, which follows Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
China’s foreign policy was seen as a critical threat by 65%. This edged a military clash between the U.S. and China over Taiwan, which came in at 64% of respondents. Climate change was regarded as a critical threat by 62%.
Russian and Chinese foreign policies had been viewed as critical threats by 32% and 36%, respectively, in Lowy’s 2017 poll. Meanwhile, the share of people citing international terrorism declined to 48% from 68% over the same five years.
When it comes to countries that can be trusted to act responsibly in global affairs, the U.K. and Japan topped the list with a score of 87% each. France ranked third at 82%, while the U.S. was fourth at 65%.
China trailed at 12%, slipping by 4 points from last year’s poll. Russia lost 21 points to sink to 5%.
The poll collected responses from roughly 2,000 Australian adults, mostly in March.