Security + Defence

close

This year’s Poll included questions on possible threats to Australia’s vital interests, Australians’ feeling of safety, freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, and attitudes to the use of Australian military forces in conflicts around the globe.

close

Security and Defence

Threats to Australia’s Vital Interests

Since we began polling in 2005, we have asked Australians about a range of possible ‘threats to the vital interests of Australia in the next ten years’. In 2017, ‘international terrorism’ remains the leading threat to Australia’s vital interests in the next ten years, with 68% seeing it as a ‘critical threat’. This is five points lower, however, than the number who saw terrorism as a critical threat in 2006. ‘North Korea’s nuclear program’ joins terrorism at the head of Australians’ concerns, 65% seeing it as a critical threat.

This year, perceptions of the threat posed by climate change have heightened, with 57% of Australians saying it is a critical threat to Australia’s vital interests, up 11 points since 2014. Climate change is seen by more Australians as a threat than a ‘severe downturn in the global economy’ (53% saying critical threat). ‘Cyberattacks from other countries’ continue to provoke concerns, with 55% seeing them as a critical threat.

‘The presidency of Donald Trump’ ranks equally with ‘foreign investment in Australia’ as a critical threat to Australia’s vital interests (42% and 40%, respectively), ahead of ‘asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat’ (38%).

In 2005, in a result that raised eyebrows at the time, our polling revealed that 57% of Australians were ‘very’ or fairly’ worried about ‘US foreign policies’, ranking them equally with ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ as a potential threat from the outside world. Australians now appear to have a more positive view of US foreign policies: 37% see them as a critical threat, much fewer than in 2005 although the number has risen 11 points since 2014. ‘China’s foreign policies’ (36% saying critical threat) rank approximately equally with those of the United States, and both are rated a higher threat than Russia’s foreign policies (32%), which are the lowest ranked of the 11 threats included in this year’s list.

Feeling of Safety

Feelings of safety this year remain at their lowest point in our 13-year history of polling, and the 12-point drop in feelings of safety which we recorded between 2010 and 2015 has not been reversed. While most Australians (79%) say they feel ‘safe’ overall, only 20% (down four points since 2015) feel ‘very safe’, and 21% feel ‘unsafe’ overall.

Freedom of Navigation in the South China Sea

Australians may not favour direct military action against China but their enthusiasm for conducting freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea remains firm. Although slightly fewer support them this year than last year, around seven in ten (68%, down six points since 2016) are in favour of Australia conducting ‘maritime operations designed to ensure freedom of navigation in the region’. Only 19% (unchanged) are against such operations.

Use of Military Forces

Despite widespread disillusionment with Australia’s involvement in military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Australians remain well disposed to the use of the Australian Defence Force to combat terrorism in the Middle East. A majority (61%) are in favour of using Australian military forces ‘to fight against violent Islamic extremist groups in Iraq and Syria’. This is consistent with results of a different question in 2016 in which a strong majority (69%) were in favour of ‘conducting air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq, and providing training and support to Iraqi security forces’.

The threat of genocide also provokes strong responses, with high levels of support for the use of Australian military forces ‘to stop a government from committing genocide and killing large numbers of its own people’ (76% in favour vs 20% against).

There is more reluctance, however, for Australia to become involved in conflicts in Asia. Australians are evenly divided (48% against, 45% in favour) about sending military forces ‘if North Korea invaded South Korea’.

There is even more sensitivity where China is involved: a clear majority are opposed to the use of Australian military forces ‘if China initiated a military conflict with one of its neighbours over disputed islands or territories’ (58% against vs 34% in favour). This aligns with findings from our 2015 Poll in which an outright majority (84%) of the public believed ‘Australia should remain neutral’ in a conflict between China and Japan.

For remote confrontations such as ‘if Russia invaded one of its neighbours’, a majority of Australians (62% against vs 31% in favour) would oppose the use of Australian military forces.

close

Threats to Australia’s National Interests

I am going to read out a list of possible threats to the vital interests of Australia in the next ten years. For each one, please select whether you see this as a critical threat, an important but not critical threat, or not an important threat at all.


  • HOW TO USE
    • Hover cursor over chart segments to view data. Click responses in the legend to switch individual results on and off.

close

Security and Defence

Threats to Australia’s Vital Interests

Since we began polling in 2005, we have asked Australians about a range of possible ‘threats to the vital interests of Australia in the next ten years’. In 2017, ‘international terrorism’ remains the leading threat to Australia’s vital interests in the next ten years, with 68% seeing it as a ‘critical threat’. This is five points lower, however, than the number who saw terrorism as a critical threat in 2006. ‘North Korea’s nuclear program’ joins terrorism at the head of Australians’ concerns, 65% seeing it as a critical threat.

This year, perceptions of the threat posed by climate change have heightened, with 57% of Australians saying it is a critical threat to Australia’s vital interests, up 11 points since 2014. Climate change is seen by more Australians as a threat than a ‘severe downturn in the global economy’ (53% saying critical threat). ‘Cyberattacks from other countries’ continue to provoke concerns, with 55% seeing them as a critical threat.

‘The presidency of Donald Trump’ ranks equally with ‘foreign investment in Australia’ as a critical threat to Australia’s vital interests (42% and 40%, respectively), ahead of ‘asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat’ (38%).

In 2005, in a result that raised eyebrows at the time, our polling revealed that 57% of Australians were ‘very’ or fairly’ worried about ‘US foreign policies’, ranking them equally with ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ as a potential threat from the outside world. Australians now appear to have a more positive view of US foreign policies: 37% see them as a critical threat, much fewer than in 2005 although the number has risen 11 points since 2014. ‘China’s foreign policies’ (36% saying critical threat) rank approximately equally with those of the United States, and both are rated a higher threat than Russia’s foreign policies (32%), which are the lowest ranked of the 11 threats included in this year’s list.

Feeling of Safety

Feelings of safety this year remain at their lowest point in our 13-year history of polling, and the 12-point drop in feelings of safety which we recorded between 2010 and 2015 has not been reversed. While most Australians (79%) say they feel ‘safe’ overall, only 20% (down four points since 2015) feel ‘very safe’, and 21% feel ‘unsafe’ overall.

Freedom of Navigation in the South China Sea

Australians may not favour direct military action against China but their enthusiasm for conducting freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea remains firm. Although slightly fewer support them this year than last year, around seven in ten (68%, down six points since 2016) are in favour of Australia conducting ‘maritime operations designed to ensure freedom of navigation in the region’. Only 19% (unchanged) are against such operations.

Use of Military Forces

Despite widespread disillusionment with Australia’s involvement in military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Australians remain well disposed to the use of the Australian Defence Force to combat terrorism in the Middle East. A majority (61%) are in favour of using Australian military forces ‘to fight against violent Islamic extremist groups in Iraq and Syria’. This is consistent with results of a different question in 2016 in which a strong majority (69%) were in favour of ‘conducting air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq, and providing training and support to Iraqi security forces’.

The threat of genocide also provokes strong responses, with high levels of support for the use of Australian military forces ‘to stop a government from committing genocide and killing large numbers of its own people’ (76% in favour vs 20% against).

There is more reluctance, however, for Australia to become involved in conflicts in Asia. Australians are evenly divided (48% against, 45% in favour) about sending military forces ‘if North Korea invaded South Korea’.

There is even more sensitivity where China is involved: a clear majority are opposed to the use of Australian military forces ‘if China initiated a military conflict with one of its neighbours over disputed islands or territories’ (58% against vs 34% in favour). This aligns with findings from our 2015 Poll in which an outright majority (84%) of the public believed ‘Australia should remain neutral’ in a conflict between China and Japan.

For remote confrontations such as ‘if Russia invaded one of its neighbours’, a majority of Australians (62% against vs 31% in favour) would oppose the use of Australian military forces.

close

Feeling of Safety

Now about world events, how safe do you feel?


  • HOW TO USE
    • Hover cursor over chart segments to view data. Click responses in the legend to switch individual results on and off.

close

Security and Defence

Threats to Australia’s Vital Interests

Since we began polling in 2005, we have asked Australians about a range of possible ‘threats to the vital interests of Australia in the next ten years’. In 2017, ‘international terrorism’ remains the leading threat to Australia’s vital interests in the next ten years, with 68% seeing it as a ‘critical threat’. This is five points lower, however, than the number who saw terrorism as a critical threat in 2006. ‘North Korea’s nuclear program’ joins terrorism at the head of Australians’ concerns, 65% seeing it as a critical threat.

This year, perceptions of the threat posed by climate change have heightened, with 57% of Australians saying it is a critical threat to Australia’s vital interests, up 11 points since 2014. Climate change is seen by more Australians as a threat than a ‘severe downturn in the global economy’ (53% saying critical threat). ‘Cyberattacks from other countries’ continue to provoke concerns, with 55% seeing them as a critical threat.

‘The presidency of Donald Trump’ ranks equally with ‘foreign investment in Australia’ as a critical threat to Australia’s vital interests (42% and 40%, respectively), ahead of ‘asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat’ (38%).

In 2005, in a result that raised eyebrows at the time, our polling revealed that 57% of Australians were ‘very’ or fairly’ worried about ‘US foreign policies’, ranking them equally with ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ as a potential threat from the outside world. Australians now appear to have a more positive view of US foreign policies: 37% see them as a critical threat, much fewer than in 2005 although the number has risen 11 points since 2014. ‘China’s foreign policies’ (36% saying critical threat) rank approximately equally with those of the United States, and both are rated a higher threat than Russia’s foreign policies (32%), which are the lowest ranked of the 11 threats included in this year’s list.

Feeling of Safety

Feelings of safety this year remain at their lowest point in our 13-year history of polling, and the 12-point drop in feelings of safety which we recorded between 2010 and 2015 has not been reversed. While most Australians (79%) say they feel ‘safe’ overall, only 20% (down four points since 2015) feel ‘very safe’, and 21% feel ‘unsafe’ overall.

Freedom of Navigation in the South China Sea

Australians may not favour direct military action against China but their enthusiasm for conducting freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea remains firm. Although slightly fewer support them this year than last year, around seven in ten (68%, down six points since 2016) are in favour of Australia conducting ‘maritime operations designed to ensure freedom of navigation in the region’. Only 19% (unchanged) are against such operations.

Use of Military Forces

Despite widespread disillusionment with Australia’s involvement in military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Australians remain well disposed to the use of the Australian Defence Force to combat terrorism in the Middle East. A majority (61%) are in favour of using Australian military forces ‘to fight against violent Islamic extremist groups in Iraq and Syria’. This is consistent with results of a different question in 2016 in which a strong majority (69%) were in favour of ‘conducting air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq, and providing training and support to Iraqi security forces’.

The threat of genocide also provokes strong responses, with high levels of support for the use of Australian military forces ‘to stop a government from committing genocide and killing large numbers of its own people’ (76% in favour vs 20% against).

There is more reluctance, however, for Australia to become involved in conflicts in Asia. Australians are evenly divided (48% against, 45% in favour) about sending military forces ‘if North Korea invaded South Korea’.

There is even more sensitivity where China is involved: a clear majority are opposed to the use of Australian military forces ‘if China initiated a military conflict with one of its neighbours over disputed islands or territories’ (58% against vs 34% in favour). This aligns with findings from our 2015 Poll in which an outright majority (84%) of the public believed ‘Australia should remain neutral’ in a conflict between China and Japan.

For remote confrontations such as ‘if Russia invaded one of its neighbours’, a majority of Australians (62% against vs 31% in favour) would oppose the use of Australian military forces.

close

Freedom of Navigation in the South China Sea

In response to China’s increasing military activities in the South China Sea, the United States has been conducting maritime operations designed to ensure freedom of navigation in the region. Are you personally in favour or against Australia conducting similar operations in an effort to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea?


  • HOW TO USE
    • Hover cursor over chart segments to view data. Click responses in the legend to switch individual results on and off.

close

Security and Defence

Threats to Australia’s Vital Interests

Since we began polling in 2005, we have asked Australians about a range of possible ‘threats to the vital interests of Australia in the next ten years’. In 2017, ‘international terrorism’ remains the leading threat to Australia’s vital interests in the next ten years, with 68% seeing it as a ‘critical threat’. This is five points lower, however, than the number who saw terrorism as a critical threat in 2006. ‘North Korea’s nuclear program’ joins terrorism at the head of Australians’ concerns, 65% seeing it as a critical threat.

This year, perceptions of the threat posed by climate change have heightened, with 57% of Australians saying it is a critical threat to Australia’s vital interests, up 11 points since 2014. Climate change is seen by more Australians as a threat than a ‘severe downturn in the global economy’ (53% saying critical threat). ‘Cyberattacks from other countries’ continue to provoke concerns, with 55% seeing them as a critical threat.

‘The presidency of Donald Trump’ ranks equally with ‘foreign investment in Australia’ as a critical threat to Australia’s vital interests (42% and 40%, respectively), ahead of ‘asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat’ (38%).

In 2005, in a result that raised eyebrows at the time, our polling revealed that 57% of Australians were ‘very’ or fairly’ worried about ‘US foreign policies’, ranking them equally with ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ as a potential threat from the outside world. Australians now appear to have a more positive view of US foreign policies: 37% see them as a critical threat, much fewer than in 2005 although the number has risen 11 points since 2014. ‘China’s foreign policies’ (36% saying critical threat) rank approximately equally with those of the United States, and both are rated a higher threat than Russia’s foreign policies (32%), which are the lowest ranked of the 11 threats included in this year’s list.

Feeling of Safety

Feelings of safety this year remain at their lowest point in our 13-year history of polling, and the 12-point drop in feelings of safety which we recorded between 2010 and 2015 has not been reversed. While most Australians (79%) say they feel ‘safe’ overall, only 20% (down four points since 2015) feel ‘very safe’, and 21% feel ‘unsafe’ overall.

Freedom of Navigation in the South China Sea

Australians may not favour direct military action against China but their enthusiasm for conducting freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea remains firm. Although slightly fewer support them this year than last year, around seven in ten (68%, down six points since 2016) are in favour of Australia conducting ‘maritime operations designed to ensure freedom of navigation in the region’. Only 19% (unchanged) are against such operations.

Use of Military Forces

Despite widespread disillusionment with Australia’s involvement in military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Australians remain well disposed to the use of the Australian Defence Force to combat terrorism in the Middle East. A majority (61%) are in favour of using Australian military forces ‘to fight against violent Islamic extremist groups in Iraq and Syria’. This is consistent with results of a different question in 2016 in which a strong majority (69%) were in favour of ‘conducting air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq, and providing training and support to Iraqi security forces’.

The threat of genocide also provokes strong responses, with high levels of support for the use of Australian military forces ‘to stop a government from committing genocide and killing large numbers of its own people’ (76% in favour vs 20% against).

There is more reluctance, however, for Australia to become involved in conflicts in Asia. Australians are evenly divided (48% against, 45% in favour) about sending military forces ‘if North Korea invaded South Korea’.

There is even more sensitivity where China is involved: a clear majority are opposed to the use of Australian military forces ‘if China initiated a military conflict with one of its neighbours over disputed islands or territories’ (58% against vs 34% in favour). This aligns with findings from our 2015 Poll in which an outright majority (84%) of the public believed ‘Australia should remain neutral’ in a conflict between China and Japan.

For remote confrontations such as ‘if Russia invaded one of its neighbours’, a majority of Australians (62% against vs 31% in favour) would oppose the use of Australian military forces.

close

Use of Military Forces

Now about Australian military forces. There has been some discussion about the circumstances that might justify using Australian military forces in other parts of the world. Please give your opinion about the following situations. Would you personally be in favour or against the use of Australian military forces:


  • HOW TO USE
    • Hover cursor over chart segments to view data. Click responses in the legend to switch individual results on and off.