Still mates: Britain ‘most trusted power among Australians despite Brexit’

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Britain is the global power most trusted by Australians despite the Brexit vote, research Down Under suggests.

A poll by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute for International Policy placed the UK considerably ahead of the US, India and China, while Australians said they trust Theresa May more than their own prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, when it comes to world affairs.

The survey of 1,200 Australians found nine in 10 trusted the UK, while more than a third found Mrs May to be a trustworthy leader.

On the other hand, trust in the US among Australians appears to have crashed by 28% since 2011 – including 6% in the past year – to the lowest level ever recorded by the Lowy’s polling.

The report says: “Australians’ highest level of trust among the eight nations polled is placed in the United Kingdom (trusted by 90%).

“Japan is trusted by 87% of Australians, and France by 84%. Trust in India (59%) is ahead of the United States (55%), followed closely by China (52%). Just 28% trust Russia, and 8% trust North Korea.”

According to the think-tank, Britain also ranks high on how “warmly” Australians feel about a range of nations and the EU.

The Lowy poll’s “feelings thermometer” ranked the UK at third on 82 degrees, closely behind Canada at 84 and Antipodean neighbours New Zealand on 86.

By comparison, Aussies felt comparatively lukewarm about Japan, Germany and France, on 74, 71 and 70 respectively, while the US and the EU were on 67.

The western powers were decidedly warmer than Russia at a chilly 47, while Saudi Arabia and North Korea were given the cold shoulder at 40 and 25 respectively.

Despite warm feelings between Australia and the UK, the Brexit vote is still listed by the Lowy as a possible reason for Australians to feel troubled about the direction of the world, along with the election of Mr Trump, escalation of conflict in the Middle East and an increase of terrorist incidents in the west.

Malcolm Turnbull visit to UK
Prime Minister Theresa May hosted Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull at 10 Downing Street in April (PA)

“In Europe, the British public voted to leave the European Union. In the United States, Americans elected a president who is an unbeliever in alliances and hostile to free trade,” he said.

“In Asia, China continues its inexorable rise, pursuing muscular policies in the South China Sea and recasting power relations throughout the region.”

However Dr Fullilove said the “feelings thermometer” had shown the “Anglosphere maintains its grip on the Australian psyche”.

Some of that appears to have an effect on how Australians view Mrs May.

“Only 30% of Australians have either ‘a lot’ or ‘some’ confidence in Donald Trump ‘to do the right thing regarding world affairs’,” the report says.

“This places Trump ahead of only Russia’s Vladimir Putin (19%) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (5%) among the nine leaders ranked.

“The leaders Australians regard with the most confidence are the UK’s Theresa May (68%) and Japan’s Shinzo Abe (66%).

“Next is Malcolm Turnbull (63%), and France’s Emmanuel Macron has the confidence of 61%. Eighteen points behind is China’s Xi Jinping (43%), followed by India’s Narendra Modi (37%).”

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