Australian trust in US fell, but security alliance vital, says poll

Runners jog through a park in front of the city skyline at sunrise in Sydney

By Kirsty Needham

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An annual poll of how Australians view foreign relations showed trust in the United States has dipped, although most (83%) saw the U.S. alliance as important for security, and 63% said it makes Australia safer from attack or pressure from China.

Cyberattacks from other nations were seen as the top threat (70%), while concern over potential conflicts over Taiwan (59%) and the South China Sea (57%) also loomed large.

Australia has boosted its military cooperation with alliance partner the United States, including in the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal, as government concern over the risk of conflict in the Indo-Pacific region rises.

The Lowy Institute poll, conducted annually by the foreign policy think-tank for 20 years, found Australians rank Japan highest of all countries in terms of trust (87%).

Trust in China to act responsibly in the world was low at 17%, which Lowy said was a sharp drop from 52% six years ago.

Levels of trust toward the United States dropped five points to 56% from a year ago.

"Australians are far less trusting of China and they are worried about the risk of war in our region. One constant is that they continue to see the alliance with the United States as important to Australia's security," said Lowy Institute executive director Michael Fullilove.

Most (83%) of 2000 people surveyed in March said the U.S. alliance was important for Australia's security.

Sixty-three percent said the U.S. alliance makes

Australia safer from attack or pressure from China, although three-quarters also believe the alliance makes it more likely Australia will be drawn into a future war in Asia.

Seventy-one percent said China would become a military threat to Australia in the next 20 years.

Asked about the 2024 U.S. presidential election, 68% said they would prefer to see Joe Biden re-elected, compared with a third (29%) preferring Donald Trump.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham in Sydney. Editing by Gerry Doyle)