A majority of Australians back Scott Morrison’s moves to build strong ties with the United States and Britain to buttress Australia’s national defence, but respondents in the latest Guardian Essential poll also worry the new Aukus partnership will strain relations with China and Europe.

The survey of 1,094 respondents shows 62% believed Australia was correct to pursue the nuclear submarine deal with the US and the UK, while 54% agreed with the statement: “The Aukus partnership is in Australia’s best security and economic interests.”

But 55% thought the arrangement would further inflame relations with China – and after the French government’s furious reaction to Morrison’s decision to cancel a $90bn submarine contract with the Naval Group with minimal warning, 48% thought the new partnership would endanger trade deals with France and the European Union.

With a federal election looming, likely in the first quarter of 2022, the latest poll shows the Coalition currently enjoys a 13-point lead over Labor when it comes to which party voters trust more to handle national security policy. The Coalition also enjoys a five-point lead on management of international relations.

While the new Aukus submarine pact was clearly a response to China’s increasing militarisation in the Indo-Pacific – a trend that destabilises the region and imperils US interests – the latest poll suggests most Australians do not favour confrontation with Beijing.

A majority of respondents (66%) characterised China as a “complex relationship to be managed”. Around a quarter (24%) characterised China as “a threat to be confronted” and 10% said Australia’s relationship with China is a “positive opportunity to be realised”.

When asked about the impact of the nuclear submarine deal on domestic security, 45% said the partnership would make Australia more secure, while 55% of respondents either said the arrangement will make no difference or it will make Australia less secure.

On voter trust to manage climate change, Labor has a 13-point lead over the Coalition.

While Morrison was in the US last week meeting Joe Biden and Boris Johnson, and engaging in defence talks with the Quad – which is an informal grouping of the US, Australia, India and Japan – divisions erupted within the Coalition about whether the government should adopt a net zero emissions reduction target by 2050.

The prime minister wants to unveil new climate commitments before the Cop26 summit in Glasgow.

With the debate about net zero expected to span the next few weeks, the latest poll shows a majority of Australians would support government intervention to expand renewable energy (66%), with only 8% supporting coal or gas plants.

With the new submarine pact sparking a renewed conversation about whether or not Australia needs a domestic nuclear power industry, 19% of respondents would also favour government support for nuclear power plants.

When respondents were asked to what extent they would support or oppose using nuclear energy sources, 47% supported nuclear powered submarines (21% opposed) and 48% supported nuclear power (24% opposed), while 29% said they would support nuclear weapons (38% opposed).

Voters were also asked about their attitudes to the management of the Covid-19 crisis.

The latest poll indicates the Berejiklian government has recovered some of its lost standing with voters. Approval in the last survey stood at 46% (down from a high of 75% in March), but in the latest data, with the premier signalling the end of lockdown is close for vaccinated residents, 53% of respondents approved.

In Victoria, as Delta cases continues to climb, sentiment has gone in the other direction. In the last survey, 50% approved of Daniel Andrews’ management of the pandemic, but that has dropped six points in a fortnight to 44%.

The prime minister’s metrics were steady, with 45% saying the federal government’s management of the pandemic was good, and 30% saying poor.

Voters were also asked about the roadmaps for reopening in the two states once vaccination thresholds reach 70-80% of adults. In NSW, 48% of respondents said they understood Berejiklian’s plan and had confidence in it, while 40% lacked confidence in it. In Victoria, 36% said they understood the Andrews plan and had confidence in it, while 50% lacked confidence in it.

With Covid vaccination rates continuing to climb around the country, particularly in the lockdown states and the Australian Capital Territory, the number of respondents in the Guardian Essential survey declaring they will never be vaccinated is down to 7%. But that figure is significantly higher among voters planning to support someone other than the major parties.

Contributor

Katharine Murphy Political editor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
If Scott Morrison is framing the election around fear, national security may not be the slam dunk he's banking on | Peter Lewis
For conservative governments on the skids, defence is usually the best form of attack. But Australians are hardly gunning for a showdown with China

Peter Lewis

28, Sep, 2021 @1:11 AM

Article image
Eighty-one per cent of Australian voters want a federal Icac, Guardian Essential poll shows
Survey suggests public remains happy with how governments are handling the Covid crisis

Katharine Murphy Political editor

02, Nov, 2020 @4:30 PM

Article image
China issues submarine warning; Queensland passes voluntary assisted dying laws – as it happened
Paul Keating slams submarine deal, warning of US-China tensions. This blog is now closed

Justine Landis-Hanley, Matilda Boseley (and) Caitlin Cassidy (earlier)

16, Sep, 2021 @8:49 AM

Article image
Scott Morrison’s China gambit is a Hail Mary from a flailing leader trying to galvanise fear | Peter Lewis
The majority of Australians support a position which is the polar opposite to the government’s current tub-thumping on national security

Peter Lewis

22, Feb, 2022 @12:02 AM

Article image
Morrison says Qld premier ‘consulted’ on emergency; Rio Tinto ditching Russia; 21 Covid deaths – As it happened
All the day’s news as it unfolded

Stephanie Convery and Matilda Boseley

10, Mar, 2022 @8:04 AM

Article image
Under the radar: the Australian intelligence chief in the shadows of the Aukus deal
Andrew Shearer’s unreported meeting in April with Joe Biden’s top Indo-Pacific adviser may have been the clincher for the Aukus security agreement

Daniel Hurst Foreign affairs and defence correspondent

24, Oct, 2021 @4:30 PM

Article image
NSW records 935 cases and four deaths; protests over mandatory construction jabs in Melbourne – as it happened
This blog is now closed

Ben Doherty and Matilda Boseley

20, Sep, 2021 @9:46 AM

Article image
Qld announces reopening plan; ACT hotspot status ends tonight – as it happened
All today’s news as it happened

Mostafa Rachwani and Amy Remeikis (earlier)

18, Oct, 2021 @8:26 AM

Article image
Australians fear North Korea standoff will lead to war – Guardian Essential poll
More than half concerned the nuclear brinkmanship will lead to all-out conflict, with women more pessimistic than men

Katharine Murphy Political editor

09, Oct, 2017 @5:00 PM

Article image
Andrews condemns second day of anti-lockdown protests – as it happened
NSW cases back over 1,000 as kids allowed to meet in friend bubbles for school holidays. This blog is now closed

Mostafa Rachwani, Ben Doherty and Matilda Boseley (earlier)

21, Sep, 2021 @10:23 AM