Essential poll: majority of Australians back Aukus submarine pact, but fear it will inflame tensions with China
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Coalition has 13-point lead over Labor on voter trust to handle national security, while ALP has 13-point lead on managing climate crisis
A majority of Australians back Scott Morrison's moves to build strong ties with the United States and Britain to buttress Australia's national defence, but respondents in the latest Guardian Essential poll also worry the new Aukus partnership will strain relations with China and Europe.

The survey of 1,094 respondents shows 62% believed Australia was correct to pursue the nuclear submarine deal with the US and the UK, while 54% agreed with the statement: "The Aukus partnership is in Australia's best security and economic interests."

But 55% thought the arrangement would further inflame relations with China – and after the French government's furious reaction to Morrison's decision to cancel a $90bn submarine contract with the Naval Group with minimal warning, 48% thought the new partnership would endanger trade deals with France and the European Union.

With a federal election looming, likely in the first quarter of 2022, the latest poll shows the Coalition currently enjoys a 13-point lead over Labor when it comes to which party voters trust more to handle national security policy. The Coalition also enjoys a five-point lead on management of international relations.

While the new Aukus submarine pact was clearly a response to China's increasing militarisation in the Indo-Pacific – a trend that destabilises the region and imperils US interests – the latest poll suggests most Australians do not favour confrontation with Beijing.

A majority of respondents (66%) characterised China as a "complex relationship to be managed". Around a quarter…
Katharine Murphy
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