Trump drives Australian trust in US to all-time low | Australia news

Australians’ trust in the US to “act responsibly in the world” has plummeted to its lowest level yet, according to an annual poll of Australian attitudes to the world, with the presidency of Donald Trump acutely impacting their perception of their country’s key security ally.

The Lowy Institute poll shows that since 2011 faith in the US to act responsibly has fallen from 83% to 55%, while only 30% of Australians have confidence in Trump’s foreign policy.

“There is no question that Donald Trump’s presidency has eroded Australians’ trust and confidence in the United States as a responsible global actor,” said the Lowy Institute’s executive director, Michael Fullilove, adding: “Yet despite concerns about the current occupant of the White House, Australians’ support for the US alliance has held firm.”

Fully three-quarters (76%) of Australians say the US alliance is either “very” or “fairly” important to Australia’s security.

The postwar global order has faced fundamental challenges over the past two years, Fullilove said, from the UK’s vote for Brexit, to Trump’s unconventional leadership, and China’s economic rise and muscular regional policies.

Domestically, for the first time in the 14-year history of the Lowy poll, a majority of Australians – 54% – believe that immigration into the country is too high, up 14 points from 40% last year – perhaps reflecting widespread political debate about immigration settings, infrastructure in Australian cities and house prices.

Concerns about climate change have increased and Australians’ preference for renewable energy over coal has solidified.

And nearly three-quarters (72%) of Australians (up from 56% in 2014) believe that the government is “allowing too much investment from China”.

Forty-six per cent believe it is “likely that China will become a military threat to Australia in the next 20 years”. Three-quarters of those respondents believe that conflict will be sparked by conflagration with the US.

There is a stark age divide in attitudes to China. Beijing’s growing power does not alarm most Australians but a majority (52%) of those over 60 see the country as a critical threat to their nation’s interests.

More than eight in 10 Australians view China as “more of an economic partner” than a “military threat”.

Australians, it seems, want the government to walk a careful diplomatic path with the world’s established superpower and its emerging one. Eighty-one per cent of respondents say “it is possible for Australia to have a good relationship with China and a good relationship with the United States at the same time”.

The Lowy Institute’s research director and the author of the poll, Alex Oliver, said while Australia’s fealty to the US alliance was a pragmatic one, “I don’t think we should be complacent about it: it won’t last forever.”

Australians’ faith would be more fundamentally shaken if Trump – or a Trump-like president – were to win the next election.

Oliver said the concerns about China were less about influence than they were about investment, pointing to concern about house prices.

Australians’ feelings of safety are at their lowest levels in the poll’s history. In 2018 78% of respondents say they feel either “very safe” or “safe”. In 2005 that figure was 91%.

Terrorism and North Korea’s nuclear program – the poll was conducted before this month’s historic meeting between Trump and North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un – are viewed as the greatest threats to Australia.

But Australia is seen as being in better shape than the rest of the world, with 46% of respondents saying they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country. But only 17% of respondents are “satisfied with the way things are going in the world today”, with 78% dissatisfied.

The poll was conducted by phone and online by the Social Research Centre in March, surveying 1,200 adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.8%.