Lowy poll reveals Australia’s record angst over economy, China, Trump

Australians have never been so worried about the economy and the role of China.

World map with China highlighted

Australians feel pessimistic about the economy, distrust China and remain worried by US President Donald Trump.

The Lowy Institute’s 2020 Understanding Australian Attitudes to the World poll has revealed how coronavirus and global geopolitical turmoil have affected the Australian psyche.

“Most Australians have very little confidence in China’s President Xi Jinping. And while we might expect Australians to look to the United States while the relationship with China is souring, that hasn’t been the case,” Lowy Institute research fellow Natasha Kassam told SBS News.

“Even though support for the alliance remains high, Australians remain sceptical of President Trump and his America First policies,” she said.

The poll revealed “unprecedented shifts” in Australian public opinion.

Only 23 per cent of Australians surveyed trusted China “a great deal” or “somewhat” to act responsibly in the world – down from 52 per cent in 2018.

Only 22 per cent of Australians said they had confidence in Xi Jinping to do the right thing in world affairs – down from 43 per cent in 2018.

“And feelings towards China on a scale of zero degrees to 100 degrees have fallen sharply in 2020, to 39 degrees. This represents a drop of 10 degrees in a single year, and the lowest score that China has received in the history of the poll,” the report says.

“In 2018, Australians were asked to weigh up their perception of China as an economic partner versus a military threat, and the balance of opinion tipped far more heavily towards China being an economic partner (82 per cent) rather than a military threat (12 per cent).”

“More Australians (55 per cent) see China as ‘more of an economic partner’ than the 41 per cent that see China as ‘more of a security threat’ to Australia.”

But only 55 per cent of respondents see China as an economic partner in 2020, down from 82 per cent in 2018.

And nine in 10 polled Australians want the nation to lessen its economic dependence on China.

Michell Grattan, Professorial Fellow at the University of Canberra, points out that extraordinary number comes despite the Lowy poll being taken in March, before Australia/China relations soured and China advised students not to travel to Australia.

“I think what we are seeing is a shift in the public eye of China as the source of economic prosperity to Australia to being a risk because of what is seen as economic dependency,” said Ms Kassam.

Dr Delia Lin, a senior lecturer in Chinese studies at Melbourne University, told SBS the low level of trust in China creates a challenge. “… how will Australia do business with China in the future? How will they engage in different sectors when the trust is so low? I think that will be interesting to watch Australia grapple with whether to view China as a threat or to trust them,” she said.

The poll report states that the COVID-19 pandemic has “taken a heavy toll on Australians’ sense of security”.

Asked about world events and how safe they feel, a record low of 50 per cent said they felt safe, down from 78 per cent in 2018.

Economic pessimism also broke records: only 52 per cent remain optimistic, the lowest level recorded in the 16-year history of the poll and down 13 points from 2019.

While 78 per cent of Australians said its alliance with the US is very or fairly important to Australia’s security, 51 per cent said they trust the country to act responsibly in the world. That number was 81 per cent in 2009.

Just 30 per cent of Australians said they had confidence in President Trump to do the right thing in world affairs.

Dr Graeme Smith from the Australian National University is not surprised by the lack of confidence in Mr Trump.

“Australia doesn’t warm to Republican candidates, but they really haven’t warmed to Donald Trump. There are good reasons just from a national point of view – his America First policies aren’t good for Australia,” he said.

“He puts his interests above his allies and cuddles up to autocrats, such as photo ops with Kim Jong Un. This sort of embrace of autocracy doesn’t go down too well in Australia,” he added.

Seventy-three per cent of those polled said they would prefer Democrat nominee Joe Biden to be president over Mr Trump.

Are you concerned by Australia’s relationships with the world’s superpowers?

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    1st Jul 2020
    I am not a political person, hence the reason I wanted to check the meaning of the word "fascist", currently being overused as a generalised insult.

    I learnt that mainland China meets EVERY SINGLE CRITERION of a fair-dinkum Fascist regime.

    In my opinion we must be alert and very wary of that dictatorship and it's mounting aggression, and take the necessary steps to counter it. We must never blame the Chinese PEOPLE, especially those living in Australia.
    1st Jul 2020
    Let's clarify something, It's not China, it's the Chinese Communist Government and its people who are loyal Communist Party members and supporters and yes, there are many Chinese Communist Party supporters in Australia acting and undermining against our democratic national interests. They use corruption as a means of infiltration because some people in high positions of Australian government and corporations are easily corrupted by the greed for money , wealth and prestige. If corruption doesn't work they engage socialist groups to cause turmoil and upheaval, we refer to such a group as, the Left.
    Arov, not all socialist groups are connected to the communist party.
    1st Jul 2020
    @mudGecko {SNIP}We must never blame the Chinese PEOPLE, especially those living in Australia{END}

    We REALLY must remain vigilant when it comes to this. The CCP do NOT define Chinese people, who are some of the most wonderful people, to have chosen Australia as both their home, a tourist destination and a safe place to send their children to study.

    Chinese could be from Hong Kong, Taiwan as well as the mainland - we MUST remember this, and not resort to mass hatred, without studying the facts.
    1st Jul 2020
    Sad to see how mainstream media and Western politicians are succeeding in creating an enemy in China, which if we are not careful could lead to another war. This is what the vested interests are pushing for, and it was laid out plain and clear many years ago by the US neocons. When I look at the aggressions and intimidations perpetrated in the world it comes overwhelmingly from the US alliance which includes Australia. China is merely pushing back and trying to assert themselves having to respond to the threats, as to a lesser degree Russia is too. We are ruled by fear, and covid 19 (Certificate Of Vaccination ID)is just a part of that strategy for another power grab. Unfortunately no change in government in the US will change those policies of aggression, it's systematic. Same as here in Australia where there is always bipartisan support for defence and the "alliance", our unwavering support for the US wars, economic or real.
    The Thinker
    1st Jul 2020
    China is preparing for war with India at this very moment. The West has created a monster.
    1st Jul 2020
    I'm not sure how the media are creating an enemy in China. Care to elaborate ? I know that when you release pandemics, its kind of self evident who the enemy is. I don't need the media to tell me who is the bad guy. I mean if someone was to hurt another, do you need to blame the media for telling the story or the person who hurt the other person? I think more people need to ' wake up ' and call a spade a spade. I do agree that the USA commit awful aggression on other nations, its appalling how the USA has become the very thing they fought against in the last 2 world wars and perhaps the west did wake a sleeping giant in China, but their intent is hardly justifiable and the media cannot be held responsible for that.
    1st Jul 2020
    I believe the Indian government has been very concerned that China would opportunistically infect the Indian military with the Wuhan virus, then take advantage of a weakened neighbour. This "rumour" came about shortly before the virus was released into the rest of the world.
    1st Jul 2020
    The US thrive on warfare, their economy rely heavily on warfare. They've been involved in MANY coups around the globe, they interfere more than any other countries on sovereign states shaping up the world to suit their agenda. How many years of peace has the US had in the last 242 years? You'll be surprised!
    The Thinker
    1st Jul 2020
    Why on earth did Western nations take jobs from their own to people to give to the people of Communist China?

    China doesn't thank those Western nations for making it rich and powerful.

    The Western nations' Governments are to blame for the entire mess. Australia can never do deals with an overpopulated Dictatorship without evil consequences.
    1st Jul 2020
    It wasn't any Governments that made China such a power, it was the greedy bosses of multinational corporations. They recognise no borders or ways of living, they only seek more and more profit for themselves. They don't give a fig for any misery they cause. Simples!
    1st Jul 2020
    Thinker, Good comment,
    mudGecko, I consider it a combination of Government and Multinationals.
    The Thinker
    1st Jul 2020
    Those greedy bosses of multinational corporations are the puppet masters to our Governments. Their political donations persuade our greedy and corrupt governments. All of Australia's political parties are guilty of this corruption.
    1st Jul 2020
    Trump doesn't have to be targeted by the press. Just listen to the drivel that comes out of his mouth. The English love me over there. I guess you can discount the baby Trump ballon lampooning him on his visit there as a term of endearment. Can we use disinfectant maybe inject it to kill the corona virus. Good one moron. The Corona virus is just a cold, we are on top of it. No he wasn't, his inaction then and now has led to countless lives being lost. He is the world's joke and the sooner he is out of office and prosecuted for all the dodgy things he's done the better.
    1st Jul 2020
    He called it a hoax and and said it's just a rumour started by the Republicans. Something definitely missing up top. And the phrase 'Fake News' is NOT his.
    1st Jul 2020
    Trump is the world's biggest hoaxer.
    1st Jul 2020
    I’d vote for the Republicans in the US elections but not if Trump was still there. He talks like a gangster and is a lying pig.
    1st Jul 2020
    I would like to know who the Poll , Polled. If the poll was asking Chinese people who immigrated , or people with a strong allegiance to China the poll would not be accurate. I'm pretty sure any Aussies would totally distrust China and its political motivations. As if the virus isn't evident enough of what they can do. Yet the word ' trust' is still being used in some capacity.
    1st Jul 2020
    Nath, most people I know have not hatred or mistrust for the Chinese People, They have however a fascist leadership which they have no say in, - America has a fascist leadership also, but quite a few Americans voted for him, - go figure.
    The Thinker
    1st Jul 2020
    China is an overpopulated country. Compassion toward other creatures and humans in a dog eat dog world is rare. Self-survival is the utmost concern.
    1st Jul 2020
    I have only one comment on Trump as President, and that is to reflect the tweet that went viral in USA - "Trump, Fu....g Moron!" However one aspect of USA policy that we need to look at and emulate is "bringing manufacturing home", thus giving our own economy a boost while reducing our reliance on China, an iffy economic partner at best. Unfortunately Morrison will never do this as the LNP is obsessed with globalisation. However when the current lessons of over reliance on overseas supply chains sink in, perhaps some attitudes will change for the better. In the meantime, I and my friends are actively looking for alternatives sources for our consumer goods, avoiding benefiting China economically as Aus has done for years now.
    1st Jul 2020
    I wish our government would stop selling off Australia to overseas countries and also wish they would stop relying on imports. We used to have thriving manufacturing here but now it is nearly all overseas. I don't have anything against Chinese people as such but do not trust the leadership in their country, don't trust Trump these days either . We need to start relying on our selves again
    The Thinker
    1st Jul 2020
    Mardi the worst thing that ever happened to Australia was when the Australian dollar was floated and the banks were deregulated. It opened the door for corruption amongst the banks, stock exchange, and corporations. Now they run everything.
    1st Jul 2020
    Don't forget that Tony Abbott signed a Free Trade Deal with China which accounts for much of the Chinese goods that flow into Australia.
    China doesn't want a shooting war as they don't need one as they are well on the way to achieving their aims through trade. If a shooting war start it will come about through someone being irrational and behaving stupidly. I wonder who the most likely candidate would be?
    1st Jul 2020
    I worry about the land grab by the Chinese. They are buying or leasing our major infrastructure and food production businesses. That should not have happened be it by the Chinese or any other non Australian entity. We must somehow get back control of our countries assets else become subject to control by those without Australia's interest at heart. End foreign ownership and put a stop to exporting raw materials where we should be adding manufacturing/production value here.
    The Thinker
    1st Jul 2020
    I agree and so would the majority of Australians. Australia is a nation rich with resources that are owned by foreign countries that take home the wealth. An American company recently paid $5Million to the Victorian Government to plunder the Bass Strait for oil. The fishermen were paid some compensation but this will permanently destroy our fishing industry.That's fewer jobs for Australians for the sake of American corporate wealth.
    1st Jul 2020
    Blame the pollies for selling Australia's assets to the highest bidders.
    Chris B T
    1st Jul 2020
    Australians can only stop Buying Chinese Sourced Goods/"Chinese Made" or passed through China.
    The American 2 party Arrangement which we have no Say In.(Your Turn/My Turn) much the same here except for minor party influences.
    China is a New World Problem Evolving with other's who have been a Problem for 75 years.
    We are only here as it suits the World Order, with our sand box toys against the Might of the Problematic Countries it is a very precarious situation for Australia,NZ and South Pacific Nations.
    1st Jul 2020
    So we now believe the security insurance policy we've been paying in blood and $billions for the past seventy five years, by joining in the US' crazy, unwinable and unjustified military adventures around the world is now not worth the paper it is written on? And apparently the LNP government which has been the main cheer leader for this dependency is acting as if this is so.

    Of course for the US its win-win, no dependency, they just benefit by selling us many billions of dollars of their armaments instead.

    I don't doubt that China is becoming more assertive, both Russia and China are now adopting a US imitation policy by using the same tactics that the US has followed since WW2 ie an entitlement to intervene anywhere in the world that suits them. They know that the US can't complain because it's their own policy.

    Despite this increased Chinese assertiveness our own government is hardly blameless in ramping this up. They don't see the point in being a world leader for good ie a leader in climate policy but they were very happy to be a world leader in poking China in the eye over the Covid investigation. Maybe if our novice PM and his government learnt that talking like a loud mouthed footy fan might work at home but no nation especially Asians accept megaphone diplomacy as a way of improving a trade or security relationship. If the LNP is determined to insist that mining and farming are to continue be our main industries, employers and exports, they had better find a way of maintaining our one key customer. The only alternatives are real strategies to diversify both industries and markets or we suffer drastically. There seems little effort beyond job keeper and sabre rattling at the moment.
    The Thinker
    1st Jul 2020
    China is a formidable world power and expects nations that do business with it to acknowledge it. Australia should have learned from Japan's invasion. Cowering behind America whilst making China rich and dangerous was never intelligent business.
    1st Jul 2020
    mudGecko... you are so right... this is the nineteen thirties all over again... they have just "dealt with HK" and Taiwan is next ...big question after that is who will they then go after?
    Meanwhile we are preoccupied with street demonstrations in the middle of a pandemic... democracy at its best... enjoy it while you can Australia as a clear and present danger lurks to the north.
    1st Jul 2020
    The reality is that Hong Kong was only leased by the British from China so was really part of China. Taiwan used to be Formosa and was part of China. It was only when Chang Kai Chek, supported by America, evacuated his people there that they claimed to be independent of China.
    1st Jul 2020
    Thinker I agree with most of what you havs said,as I live in S.E.ASIA(TEN YRS)I have seen what China has done in gaining control over poor countries therefore I believe that the Morrision govt is wasting tax payers money on building up our defence.We dont want conflict with anyone.
    Why not use that money to get back what we have sold away to overseas corporates & invest it in our most valuble commodity the Australian people.Get our diplomats & polititians to do what they are supposed to do negotiate on our behalf for safe & fair deals.
    We would never want to meet China in a confilt & we could never trust Trump
    1st Jul 2020
    I would be very worried if Trump does not win in Nov 20. Biden would be a disaster. I remain hopeful that middle America will win the day - not the radical left
    1st Jul 2020
    I’ll be extremely worried if Trump does win.
    1st Jul 2020
    There is virtually no radical left in the U.S. Trump carries on about Socialism there but he classes our Medicare and PBS as Socialism.
    It is people like Trump who actually give agitators some solid material to work with as he is a white supremacist racist individual with no thought for anyone but himself.
    1st Jul 2020
    30% of Australians trust Trump to do the right thing in world affairs. Seriously! Have they been in a coma for the last 4 years.

    I think Trump and the Chinese government are a very serious threat to Australia and the world. But the Trump problem is easy to fix if Republicans wake up and stop thinking he is the ‘chosen one’ and the best president they’ve ever had. He isn’t!
    2nd Jul 2020
    The Chinese government has, in my opinion, a global agenda to destroy democracy. It doesn't need to launch military attacks, its Belt and Road deals and the degree of reliance on China's goods around the world gives them massive leverage. Covid-19 has highlighted the significant risk to economies worldwide, from China. Look at what is happening in Hong Kong, with Taiwan to follow; it is a snapshot of what the future holds for the rest of us. If we sit on our hands and don't start to become far more independent on China AND to counter their interference in our political system than we will reap the whirlwind.
    2nd Jul 2020
    Mr Morrison and his Govt are going to spend squillions on defence, now that they perceive China as a threat. Methinks the horse has pretty much bolted; long lease of the Darwin port to Chinese company, infiltration into our educational facilities, large ownership in some of the energy providers and along with other nations,a10% ownership of our water!!! Which Govt/s thought this would be a good idea???. Ordinary people could see a mile off that we were asking for trouble. People in major cities have been protesting for years about the number coming to Aust and the socio economic effect it was having on housing etc. Now we have been jolted awake.
    3rd Jul 2020
    We can thank our governments for putting us in this situation with China. If they had put Australian jobs before the mighty dollar we would not be in this position. China is a communist country with a disgusting history of human violations which can now be seen in Hong Kong. We should be manufacturing and making jobs (permanent jobs) for Australians.
    old frt
    5th Jul 2020
    Franky , stop spreading crap Covid 19 stands for Coronavirus disease 2019 not false info you read on face book

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