Past National Opinion Surveys



Australian and American Attitudes to Illegal Immigration

Asylum seekers19 August 2010

An election‐campaign survey commissioned by the US Studies Centre in conjunction with Stanford University has found that Australians are more concerned about illegal immigration than those in the United States.

The survey canvassed the attitudes of Australians and Americans towards illegal immigrants, immigration generally, and the strengths and weaknesses of the respective party policies. It was carried out by US‐based polling firm YouGov/Polimetrix , with Australian polling occurring during the first week of the current federal election campaign between July 14 and 22, and American polling done in February 2010.

According to the results:

  • 76 per cent of Australians believe that increasing numbers of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants are an important problem for the country whereas in the US, where the number of illegal immigrants in 2009 was estimated by the US Department of Homeland Security at nearly 11 million, 71 per cent rate it as important.
  • 69 per cent of Australian respondents agree that Australia “is taking too many immigrants”, as compared to 62 per cent of their American counterparts.
  • Among those who consider asylum seekers as “one of the most important issues facing Australia”, 47 per cent indicated they will vote for the Coalition and 37 per cent for the ALP.
  • Labor leads the Coalition (48‐25 per cent) only amongst those who rate immigration as “not all that important”.

Chief executive officer of the US Studies Centre, Professor Geoffrey Garrett says differences in the demography of Australia and the US may help explain the variations between the two country’s attitudes to immigration and asylum seekers.

“In the US, most migrants in the country without legal visas are Latinos, joining what is America’s largest ethnic group that is largely sympathetic with their plight. There is no similar ethnic base in Australia for a more compassionate approach for asylum seekers.”

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Australians, Americans and Climate Change

20 November 2009

A major survey on Australian attitudes to climate change released today by the United States Studies Centre (USSC) at the University of Sydney mirrors recent polling among Americans.

Professor Simon Jackman, Visiting Professor at the USSC and Professor of Political Science at Stanford University in California, conducted the survey “Australians, Americans and Climate Change” comparing attitudes of Australians with those of Americans.

Professor Jackman said the survey results showed that climate change is a “wedge” issue in both countries, but the Rudd government has bigger incentives than the Obama administration to pass legislation because Australians are on average greener than Americans.

“The partisan divide on climate change is big in Australia but even bigger in the US”, said Professor Jackman. He added “The centre-right hold views on climate change that are at odds with mainstream opinion in both countries, but Americans are just less committed to fighting climate change than Australians”.

Professor Geoffrey Garrett, chief executive of the US Studies Centre, said that the survey results explain why climate change legislation is closer to becoming law in Australia than the US.

“Barack Obama and Kevin Rudd both know that good policy must also be good politics. In Australia, pushing hard on climate change is good policy and good politics, but this is still not the case in the US”, said Professor Garrett.

Based on 800 telephone interviews conducted in Australia in late September, the survey found that climate change is much higher on the agenda in Australia than the US. Strong majorities of the Australian public concur that (a) the planet is warming (83%); (b) climate change is caused by human activity (67%); and (c) Australia should take actions to reduce its production of greenhouse gas emissions even if this costs jobs and reduces living standards (59%).

Conversely, data from recent polling in the US show that climate change remains well down the list of “important issues” for Americans with the most recent Gallup poll reporting that only 4% of respondents rated climate change the “most important” issue, far behind their top two concerns of the economy (46%) and health care (13%).

A recent YouGov/Polimetrix survey in the US shows that only 57% of Americans believe humans contribute to climate change (the comparable figure is 67% in Australia) and that Americans are less willing than Australians to take action if climate change initiatives will cost them money.

The surveys show considerable partisan polarisation on climate change in both countries, but the partisan divide is more pronounced in the US.

Among Australian respondents, Labor voters were considerably more likely to attribute a warming climate to human activity than Liberal voters. Of the 90% of Labor voters who agreed that the world’s climate is warming, 83% attributed this to human activities, meaning that 78% of Labor voters accepted that global warming is anthropogenic. Among Liberal voters the corresponding figure is 48%, an inter-party difference of 30 percentage points. Not surprisingly, Green party supporters believe even more strongly in human induced climate than Labor voters, whereas National party voters are about as skeptical as Liberal voters.

In the US, 74% of Democrats report that human activities are a source of global warming, a belief reported by only 28% of Republican identifiers. This gives a partisan split on this issue of 46 percentage points.

The stronger polarisation of this issue in the US was again highlighted in questions related to measures to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In Australia 70% of Labor supporters and 44% of Liberal supporters said they favoured “steps to reduce its [Australia’s] production of greenhouse gases, even if it means fewer jobs and a reduction in living standards…”

In the US, 62% of respondents support legislation setting emissions targets, but there was a partisan gulf on this question: 84% of Democrat voters support such legislation, but only 31% of Republicans voters - a gap of 53 percentage points between the two parties.

“The USSC survey shows that in both Australia and the US, supporters of the centre-right opposition parties are considerably more skeptical about climate change than the general population”, Professor Garrett said. He added “But our data also show that Australia is a greener country than the US”.

“This helps explain why climate change is on a much slower track in the US than it is in Australia, even though President Obama is much greener than George W. Bush”.

The second part of the US Studies Centre’s 2009 survey dealing with Australian and American attitudes on a range of other political and cultural issues will be released next year.

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Australians, Americans and the 2008 Presidential Election

30 October 2008

The United States Studies Centre conducted a major survey on the views of Australians towards the United States and the 2008 presidential election, undertaken in October during the financial crisis.

Professor Simon Jackman Visiting Professor in the United States Studies Centre and Professor of Politics at Stanford University in California conducted the survey "Australians, Americans and the 2008 Presidential Election" that also compared attitudes of Australians with those of Americans on the same issues.

The survey comprises telephone interviews of 800 respondents and an on-line survey of 3,000 respondents. The field work was conducted by Brisbane based Q & A Research.

The survey found that most Australian respondents (80%) believe the US is on the "wrong track", mirroring the views of Americans. In contrast, a solid majority (64%) of Australian respondents said Australia is on the "right track".

If Australians could vote in the US presidential election, they would overwhelmingly support the Democrat candidate Senator Barack Obama by more than a 4-1 margin.

Almost half (49%) of the Australian respondents think Senator Obama would make a better president "in terms of Australia's interests". Only 11% said the Republican candidate Senator John McCain would be better for Australia. Fully one third of respondents said it would make "no difference" if Senator Obama or Senator McCain wins, reflecting confidence in the underlying strength of the US-Australia alliance.

More than two thirds (69%) of Australian respondents felt anger towards or ashamed of the US because of "things America has done". A similar number of American respondents (60%) also reported feeling "ashamed of things that America has done".

About half the Australian respondents think the US should exit Iraq within twelve months. This is very similar to the views of Americans on the right strategy in Iraq. But even the one third of Australian respondents who think the US should stay "as long as it takes" still prefers Senator Obama as president by a 3-1 margin. The one third of Americans who think the US should stay in Iraq support Senator McCain by more than 10-1.

Senator Obama being the first African American presidential nominee of America's two major parties is less important to Australians than to Americans. The survey's Australian respondents scored considerably lower than American respondents on a "racial resentment" scale assessing attitudes towards the treatment and status of African Americans in the US.

On religion, many fewer Australians (5%) than Americans (18%) incorrectly think Obama is a Muslim. He is a Christian.

Asked about American stereotypes, two-thirds of Australian respondents describe Americans as "violent", "greedy" and "ignorant". At the same time, two thirds of Australians described Americans as hardworking.

Australian respondents were twice as likely to think of China as an "adversary" of the United States (33%) than as an adversary of Australia (15%). More than half (55%) see China as an "ally" of Australia, almost twice the proportion (29%) that thinks China is an "ally" of the United States. Only 5% of American respondents see China as an "ally".

Australian respondents were asked to rate both Australian and American political figures on a "progressive-conservative" scale. Australians consider Senator Obama to be considerably to the left of Australia's Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, whereas they consider Senator McCain to be far to the right of Australia's Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull, with President George W. Bush even further to the right.

Professor Geoffrey Garrett, CEO of the US Studies Centre, said the results showed that Australians of all political stripes shared with many Americans hopes for transformational change at home and abroad if Senator Obama wins the presidency next week, succeeding what is widely viewed in both countries as a failed Bush administration.

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Australian Attitudes Towards the US

10 December 2007

The United States Studies Centre has commissioned the most comprehensive survey of Australian attitudes towards the United States ever undertaken, in the national opinion survey Australian Attitudes Towards the US.

Part One examines the views of Australians on foreign, economic and trade policy issues.

Part Two canvasses the attitudes of Australians towards a number of US institutions, various aspects of American society and culture and the influence of American culture on Australia.

The national survey has generated extensive media coverage, both nationally and internationally.

Professor Murray Goot, Visiting Professor in the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, designed and developed with Sydney academic Dr Ben Goldsmith. Professor Goot is widely recognised as Australia's leading academic authority on public opinion.

The research employed innovative survey techniques and comparisons to opinion polls looking back over 25 years. AC Nielsen conducted telephone interviews with over 1200 people across Australia.



See also:


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Brendon O'Connor

Australia, the US, and the War on Terror

With Australia raising its terror alert level to high and Obama announcing a plan of action in the Middle East, debates about the alliance and its role in the War on Terror are re-emerging. Associate professor Brendon O'Connor joins an expert panel to discuss the next steps in Iraq and Syria.

Tom Switzer

Obama lays out plan for Iraq and Syria

Barack Obama's major address on his Islamic State strategy promised air strikes but can a satisfactory resolution be reached without ground troops? Research associate Tom Switzer joins a panel to read between the lines of the President's speech.

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