World leaders and countries
This year’s Poll asked Australians about their confidence in various world leaders to do the right thing regarding international affairs, as well as which country was Australia’s best friend in the world.
Confidence in world leaders
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tops this list of global leaders, with 88% of Australians expressing confidence in her to do the right thing in world affairs. While Australians tend to regard New Zealand and its leaders warmly, it should be noted that the Christchurch massacre took place during the fieldwork for the 2019 Poll.
Only 30% of Australians have ‘a lot’ or ‘some’ confidence in President Xi to do the right thing in world affairs, a 13-point drop since 2018 (43%). However, confidence in President Xi is still higher than in US President Donald Trump. Only 25% of Australians (down from 30% in 2018) have either ‘a lot’ or ‘some’ confidence in President Trump ‘to do the right thing regarding world affairs’, compared with 30% saying the same for President Xi.
Australian leaders receive relatively high votes of confidence – with 58% of respondents expressing confidence in Prime Minister Scott Morrison and 52% in then Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. In 2018, a higher proportion (63%) of Australians said they had confidence in former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to do the right thing in world affairs.
Australians are more wary of Indonesian President Joko Widodo, with a third (34%) expressing confidence in him. Even fewer Australians (25%) express confidence in Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Only one in five Australians (21%) have confidence in Russian President Vladimir Putin and 7% in North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in results statistically unchanged from 2018.
Here is a list of political leaders. For each, please indicate how much confidence you have in each leader to do the right thing regarding world affairs – a lot of confidence, some confidence, not too much confidence or no confidence at all.
Best friend in the world
A majority of Australians (59%) select New Zealand as our best friend in the world, an increase of six points from 2017 and up 27 points from 2014.
After losing ground in 2017, the United States has rebounded and 20% say it is Australia’s best friend. This remains 15 points lower than in 2014 (35%), when the United States and New Zealand were ranked equal first as our best friend.
The United Kingdom ranks third in 2019, with only 15% saying the United Kingdom is our best friend. In 2017, the United Kingdom was ranked equal second, alongside the United States.
Australians may view our relationship with our largest trading partner, China, as of a similar priority to the United States, but only 4% say China is our best friend. This number has halved since 2017. The number of Australians saying the United States is our best friend is now five times higher than the number nominating China.
Although Japan consistently ranks above the United States in warmth on the Lowy Institute ‘feelings thermometer’, only 2% see Japan as Australia’s best friend. Even fewer Australians (1%) choose Indonesia as our best friend.
Now about Australia’s relations with other countries around the world. In your personal opinion, which one of the following countries is Australia’s best friend?
* Note change in mode. See Methodology.
Australian views of the United Kingdom may have been affected by Brexit, and the adverse coverage of the protracted Brexit negotiations.
Seven in ten Australians (70%) say that the United Kingdom leaving the European Union will be a bad thing for the European Union. The majority (62%) say it will be a bad thing for the United Kingdom. Fewer, but still a majority (58%), say Brexit will be a bad thing for the West.
Pessimism about Brexit aligns with Lowy Institute polling from 2016, in which a majority of Australians (51%) said that the United Kingdom ‘should remain a member of the European Union’. Only 19% said it should leave.
Brexit may also have affected sentiment towards the United Kingdom more generally, with the Lowy Institute ‘feelings thermometer’ registering a six-point fall for the United Kingdom since 2018 (to 76°). Feelings towards the European Union have remained steady at 66°.
Now a question about the United Kingdom and its vote to leave the European Union. Do you personally think the United Kingdom leaving the European Union will be a good thing or a bad thing for: