Survey finds 47% believe Aukus locks Australia in to supporting the US in an armed conflict, while concern about conflict with China has fallen
A significant minority of Australians think the country should withdraw from the overall Anzus security alliance with the US if Donald Trump returns to the White House, while just under half of the respondents in a new poll believe the Aukus pact locks Australia in to supporting the US in any armed conflict.
The findings, to be released on Wednesday, are part of an opinion survey undertaken annually by the United States Studies Centre. YouGov surveyed 1,019 adults in Australia, 1,055 in the US and 1,015 in Japan about a range of foreign policy and security questions related to the Indo-Pacific.
The new survey finds 37% of Australian respondents feel Australia should dump the US alliance if Trump returns to the presidency next year (43% disagree with that idea), and 47% believe Aukus locks Australia in to supporting the US in an armed conflict.
Last year, 63% of Australian respondents to the US Studies Centre annual poll said they believed Canberra’s security alliance with Washington made the nation more secure. That’s dropped by nine points in 12 months. In 2023, 54% of respondents articulate that view.
While 46% of Australian respondents think Aukus will be good for creating jobs in Australia, and 49% agree with the statement “it is a good idea for Australia to have nuclear powered submarines” – 42% feel the program is not worth the $368bn cost.
Coalition voters are more likely than Labor voters to think the Aukus pact will make Asia safer (60% of Coalition voters say this compared with 44% of Labor voters). Across all Australian respondents, 43% say the submarines will make Asia safer, while a significant chunk (42%) either don’t know or aren’t sure whether or not that will be the case.
While a majority (51%) of Australian respondents believe China is mostly harmful in Asia, Australians are less worried than they were a year ago about the risks of being drawn into an armed conflict with Beijing sometime over the coming decade.
In 2022, 58% of Australian respondents to the survey thought that proposition was either very or somewhat likely. But after the steady thaw in diplomatic relations between Canberra and Beijing over the past 12 months, and the release of Australia’s defence strategic review in April, 49% say that now.
A majority of Australian respondents (63%) believe China will become the most economically and militarily influential country in Asia over the coming couple of decades (32% say the US will be the pre-eminent power). More than half Australian respondents (57%) believe that eventuality would be bad.
The new poll findings follow Anthony Albanese’s return from an official visit to Washington and ahead of the prime minister’s trip to Shanghai and Beijing at the end of this week.
Australia’s pursuit of the Aukus pact is a response to rising strategic competition in the region. During Albanese’s recent trip to the US, the president, Joe Biden, sought to play down congressional jitters over the nuclear-powered submarine deal, and he revealed he assured the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, that the countries involved are not aiming to “surround China”.
Seven months after Albanese joined Biden and the British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, in San Diego to announce the Aukus plans, there remains uncertainty over congressional approvals needed for them to succeed.
While Biden told reporters during the visit he was confident the required legislation would pass, he declined to provide a personal guarantee of success. Albanese said he remained “very confident of a very positive outcome”.
As well as the complication of congressional dysfunction, doubts about Australia’s willingness to join forces with the US in a war against China are also being cited by congressional researchers as a potential obstacle to the Aukus nuclear-powered submarine deal.
Albanese’s looming visit to China will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first visit to the country by Gough Whitlam in 1973. Asked on Tuesday whether or not he was walking a diplomatic tightrope between the strategic competitors – Washington and Beijing – the prime minister said Australians wanted him “to be direct about our interests”.
“China knows that we’re in an alliance with the United States,” Albanese said. “They know that we’re a nation that stands up for human rights and for the rule of law, and they expect us to do that. I’ve been direct about that.”
He said Australia wanted to stabilise the diplomatic relationship with China and to get trade going again between the two countries. Australia and China would “cooperate wherever we can … disagree where we have differences and [be] open and honest about them and can talk those issues through”.
“We have different political systems, of course, and different values, but it always makes sense to have dialogue and to be talking.”
Source : The Guardian