What Australians think about India: Lowy Institute Poll 2023

Australians‘ perceptions about India in various categories typically range in the ‘mediocre‘ region, except in one

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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone straight from a rock star reception in Sydney to a likely similar one in the United States tomorrow 23 June. Clearly his countrymen believe he is a leader like no other, having raised the stature of India like never before.

But what do Australians think of him, and of India? The Lowy Institute Poll, a survey of Australian public opinion on international affairs, might have some clues.

In the Sydney-based thinktank’s annual poll, 51% of respondents revealed they had a ‘somewhat’ trusting view of India. 38% of respondents could say with confidence that they could trust Narendra Modi to do the right thing regarding world affairs.

India’s best result comes in the ‘Friends in Asia’ category, coming only second behind Japan, and rising three positions from last year.

Trust in India

2023 Lowy Institute Poll highlights varying levels of trust among Australians regarding India’s responsible actions worldwide. While 7% of Australians expressed a great deal of trust in India, indicating a significant level of confidence, a majority of 51% had only a ‘somewhat’ trusting view.

(Source: Lowy Institute)

However, it is worth noting that 33% of Australians did not have a high level of trust in India’s responsible behaviour.

This is quite at odds with the view in India. According to Indian thinktank Observer Research Foundation’s Foreign Policy Survey in 2021 titled ‘Young India and The World’, Australia actually enjoys high trust, second only to the US. 77 percent of the respondents (Indians) rated the US as the country they trust the most among the leading global powers, followed by Australia (67%), Russia (64%), the United Kingdom (UK) (61%), Japan (60%), France (58%), and the European Union (EU) (51%).

Trust in Narendra Modi

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi secured the seventh position in the ‘Confidence in World Leaders’ category, with 38% of Australians expressing some confidence in him, while 14% reflected that they did not know him at all. Only 6% expressed ‘a lot of’ confidence.

(Source: Lowy Institute)

Behind Modi were Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Top ranked in this category was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who gained international recognition for his leadership during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, who garnered the confidence of seven in ten Australians (72%). He was followed by five other prominent leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who also enjoyed substantial levels of confidence (64% each).

India: A second best friend in Asia

When it comes to considering Australia’s best friend in Asia, the majority of Australians still name Japan as their top choice (44%) from a selection of six countries. India comes up second in this category, with 16% now recognizing India as Australia’s best friend in Asia. This represents a significant increase from last year, when only 7% ranked India as a friend in Asia. This notable shift indicates a growing confidence and recognition of India’s importance in the region.

(Source: Lowy Institute)

Interestingly in another question on security, the Quad partnership, which includes Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, was seen as a potential contributor to Australia’s and the region’s security. Half the respondents said the Quad partnership will make Australia (51%) and the region (50%) safer.

Lowy Institute Poll India
(Source: Lowy Institute)

On the other hand, according to the report, China continues to struggle in this regard, ranking second-lowest, with only 7% of Australians considering it as Australia’s best friend in Asia. In contrast to the past, where Japan and China shared the title, the evolving landscape now highlights the strengthening ties and mutual trust between Australia and India.

The results are not exactly flattering for India, even though the bilateral relationship between India and Australia is seeing high-impact times currently.

There are unprecedented levels of engagement in almost every sphere, whether economic, defence, scientific, educational or diplomatic. The high-level meetings between heads-of-government and senior ministers end in great shows of bonhomie and tweets of mutual admiration. Showers of golden petals, chariot rides in cricket stadiums, warm embraces with national icons lit up for the night – these might will go into end-of-year lists of the most memorable news pics of 2023, but how many of these good vibes trickle down to the general public, and their perception of India?

Will next year’s Lowy Institute Poll tell a different story about India? We’ll just have to wait and see.

The Lowy Institute poll was conducted in late March this year, and included 2077 respondents. Read the full results here

This report was written with inputs from Torsha Sen and Vivek Asri

Read More: India fourth most powerful country in Asia: Lowy Institute report


Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni is the Editor of Indian Link.

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