Foreign policy, ambivalence, and coherence: evidence from Australia

Stream: Panel 28 - International Relations: Public Opinion and Foreign Policy 
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 11.30 am – 1.00 pm


Foreign policy has been identified as one domain in which public opinion is neither coherent nor informed enough to justify informing government actions. Nonetheless, studies from the United States suggest that citizens’ opinions on foreign policy are relatively coherent, and that when presented with distinct policy alternatives, those opinions can inform vote choice. This study compares three cross-sectional time series studies of the Australian population: the Australian Election Study (1987-2013), the Lowy Institute Poll (2005-2014) and the ANU Poll (2009 and 2014), to examine the strength, coherence, and implications of Australian citizens’ opinions towards foreign policy. The analysis comprises three stages. First, multiple correspondence analysis examines the consistency of three types of measures of foreign policy over time and across series: attitudes towards countries (Indonesia, China, and the United States), support for foreign aid and globalisation, and confidence in multilateral organisations. Summary scales derived from the MCA are then used to examine the direction and intensity of foreign policy preferences. The paper concludes with an analysis of the relationship between foreign policy preferences and electoral preferences, drawing particularly on the AES data to examine the extent to which policy preferences are associated with party identification and vote choice.


Jillian Sheppard (Presenter), ANU

Steven McEachern (Presenter), ANU