Poll shows foreign affairs interest

A higher-than-expected public interest in foreign affairs and strongly positive attitudes towards Australia were among the initial findings of a national opinion poll released in Dunedin yesterday.

Many participants also wanted to see closer ties with Australia, including some supporting a common currency.

The poll involved 772 people randomly selected throughout the country and 84 members of "positional elites"-the latter including politicians, business community representatives, trade unions, non-governmental agencies and the media.

The "elite" were chosen for their potential influence on foreign policy.

Some initial results of the poll, on public perceptions of New Zealand foreign policy, were released yesterday by researchers at the University of Otago politics department, during a talk on the final day of the university's latest Foreign Policy School.

The poll showed that Australia was the overseas country most highly favoured by New Zealanders, with about 90% of poll participants viewing Australia as either very positive (about half the total) or "quite positive".

The poll indicated that about three-quarters of participants discussed New Zealand's relations with another country at least once a month, including about 40% who discussed such matters once a week.

While full details of the poll were not available, initial results indicated that New Zealanders had an unexpectedly high interest in foreign affairs issues.

Some overseas commentators had said that the public showed little interest in foreign policy and therefore there was little value in consulting people about such issues.

The poll showed this was not the case in New Zealand, school co-director Dr Jim Headley said.

He believed there was scope for more Government consultation with the wider public over trade issues such as the recent Free Trade Agreement with China.

The poll was conducted late last month and early this month by Christchurch-based polling firm Opinions Market Research Ltd.

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