June 26, 2016

Lowy Institute’s 2016 Poll - China, Japan, Abbott, Subs, FONOPs

The Lowy Institute has realeased another of its excellent annual Australian international policy polls.

The Lowy Institute is a centrist, think tank. Reliable. See http://www.lowyinstitute.org/about

See page 4 of the poll documentThe 2016 Lowy Institute Poll reports the results of a nationally representative opinion survey of 1202 Australian adults conducted by telephone between 26 February and 15 March 2016. The maximum sampling variance (‘error margin’) is approximately +/- 2.8%.” This was before: Turnbull's April 2016 Continuous Shipbuilding and DCNS Submarine announcements, calling the Election, and, of course, before the Brexit result.

The results of the Lowy Poll were released in June 2016. It has been a tracking survey on Australian international policy over the past 12 years. Special items of interest to Submarine Matters include Australia’s relations with China and Japan, ex Prime Minister Abbott’s poor foreign policy record, popularity of building submarines in Australia and FONOPs.


Since 2008, Lowy have asked Australians a series of questions about China’s rise. China’s economic growth has had a strong impact on Australia, with China overtaking Japan to become Australia’s largest trading partner in late 2007. Yet despite its economic importance, Lowy Institute polling has shown that Australians hold a mixed, perhaps even contradictory, set of views on China.

Australia’s Best Friend In Asia

In this year’s Poll, China now has a clear lead over Japan when we ask Australians to identify ‘Australia’s best friend in Asia’.

In 2016, 30% say China is our best friend in Asia, compared with 25% saying Japan. This is a clear shift from 2014 when we last posed this question. China and Japan ranked equally that year, with 31% nominating China and 28% Japan as Australia’s best friend in Asia, in a statistically equivalent result. 

In detail:

Despite being Australia’s largest trading partner, the results from this year’s poll show Australians continue to hold mixed views on China. According to the 2016 thermometer, feelings towards China sit at a lukewarm 58°, matching last year’s result. While China has established a lead over Japan as Australia’s ‘best friend in Asia’ in 2016 (30% saying China and 25% saying Japan is Australia’s best friend in Asia), Japan registered at 70° on this year’s thermometer, a much warmer result than China’s 58°.

…Only 15% saw [China] as ‘more of a military threat’….

[BUT] Japan has been regarded more warmly over the history of our polling than the majority of Australia’s other neighbours in Asia. Singapore is one exception, scoring comparably with or marginally warmer than Japan (71° in 2016 compared with Japan’s 70°).

Japan’s thermometer reading in 2016 is at 70°, its highest result since 2012, when public sympathy appeared to be a factor following the tsunami and Fukushima disaster which hit Japan in 2011. This year’s result continues a warming trend from 2013 when it registered a cooler 65°.



Tony Abbott is ranked the lowest of all seven Australian prime ministers based on their foreign policy performance. Mr Abbott is the only prime minister who a majority of Australians say did a poor job. There is a wide margin between Mr Abbott and Mr Turnbull on their foreign policy performance (…68% saying Mr Turnbull, has done a very good or reasonable job in handling Australia’s foreign policy).



In an emphatic result, 70% of Australians say ‘the submarines should be built mainly in Australia, even if this will cost us more’. Only 26% say ‘the submarines should be built at the best possible price, even if this means they are mainly built overseas’.



Despite seeing China as our best friend in Asia, Australians are firmly in favour of Australia conducting freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

…This reinforces the Poll’s related finding that 79% of Australians consider China’s military activities in our region as a negative influence on their overall view of China.

No comments: