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The Australian National University

Foreign policy

4 September 2014

A new ANUpoll evaluates what the public thinks about foreign affairs and what it sees as the main priorities for Australia’s foreign policy. It covers the following topics:

  • Relations with Indonesia
  • Relations with the United States of America and China
  • Support for foreign aid
  • International institutions
  • Key trends: most important problems and political mood

What does the Australian public think about foreign affairs and what does it see as the main priorities for Australia’s foreign policy?

Public opinion on foreign affairs has less direct impact on public policy when compared to many other areas of government responsibility. However, public opinion across the broad spectrum of foreign policy—from relations with other countries to globalisation and levels of foreign aid—sets broad parameters on what policies are acceptable and what are not. Not least, it can identify the areas where government must provide leadership to the public.

The latest ANUpoll surveys attitudes to foreign policy, and its findings suggest suggest that the public is broadly comfortable with Australia’s foreign aid program and most believe that aid should be allocated based on humanitarian need. The public is also comfortable with the concept of globalisation, although slightly less so with its impact on their own economic circumstances.

The economic rise of China has not undermined public support for Australia’s long-standing defence links with the United States of America (USA). Nevertheless, a majority see China as
a potential economic threat to Australia. In addition, there is a degree of wariness among the public about our relations with Indonesia. The public’s perceptions of these issues accurately
reflect the dilemmas that face contemporary Australian foreign policy.

ANUpoll was designed to inform public and policy debate as well as to assist in scholarly research. It builds on The Australian National University’s long tradition of social survey research, which began in the 1960s. Today, it fulfils the University’s mission of addressing topics of national importance.

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Updated: 4 September 2014/ Responsible Officer:  Head of School / Page Contact:  Web Publisher