Australians Warm to Trump as Trust in Biden and US Plunges

(Bloomberg) -- Australians are more distrustful of the US than at any time in Joe Biden’s administration, a Lowy Institute poll found, while support for his presidential predecessor Donald Trump climbed further.

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Confidence in Biden as a world leader tumbled 13 percentage points to 46% in the latest survey of Australians’ foreign policy attitudes by the Sydney-based think tank. Overall trust in the US as a global power fell to 56% — down from a peak of 65% in 2022 — in a worrying sign as Washington moves to solidify alliances across the Indo-Pacific to counter China.

While about two-in-three Australians said they would like to see Biden reelected in November, the result was still the worst for a Democratic candidate since the question was first asked in 2008. In contrast, 29% said they want to see Trump victorious, the highest backing for a Republican candidate in the poll’s history.

The survey was conducted before Trump was found guilty in the first criminal trial of a former president in US history. Still, his support in the Lowy poll has risen consistently risen since first running for office: In 2016, just 11% of Australians favored Trump, rising to 23% at the 2020 election when he was decisively defeated by Biden.

Ryan Neelam, director of the Lowy Institute’s Public Opinion and Foreign Policy Program, said the results reflected a complex attitude toward the US. While those surveyed felt safer in the short term thanks to the US alliance, many were also concerned about the risk of being dragged into a regional war by Washington in the future.

“Many Australians don’t feel like they have a reliable read on where the US is heading,” Neelam said.

The Lowy Institute has been polling Australians for two decades on their attitudes toward international relations and foreign policy. Japan, France and the UK are regularly named as the most trustworthy nations, while responses toward the US and China have fluctuated over time.

The waning trust in the US comes as Australia is tying its security ever-closer to Washington via the Aukus pact. The three-party agreement with the US and UK aims to provide Australia with a fleet of American nuclear-powered submarines by next decade.

Despite a recent warming of ties between Canberra and Beijing, the poll showed attitudes toward China have barely budged. Just 17% of Australians said they trusted it to act responsibly in the world, only a marginal improvement on recent years and far below the 52% recorded in 2017. Asked whether they considered China more of a security threat or an economic partner, 53% responded that it was primarily a risk.

Only 12% of Australians said they had confidence in Chinese President Xi Jinping to do the right thing in world affairs, slightly above Russia’s Vladimir Putin on 7% and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un at just 4%.

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