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Terror worse than war: poll

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Australians fear a terrorist attack on home soil more than a war, but most say we could not defend ourselves if conflict came to our shores.

Seventy-nine per cent of those polled believe a terrorist attack is likely in the next 20 years, according to a Newspoll in The Australian, with just 19 per cent saying it was unlikely and two per cent unsure.

The poll also showed 70 per cent of people believe Australia is not capable of defending itself if it is invaded.

Australian National University terrorism expert Clive Williams, a former director of security intelligence for the Defence Department, told The Australian the possibility of a terrorist attack will rise as Australian Muslims, radicalised against the West, return from Syria where they have gone to fight.

The poll found just 30 per cent of people believed a conflict with China was likely within 20 years, but that figure rose to 47 per cent when asked about Indonesia.

Forty per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds believe the country can protect itself, while three-quarters of those aged over 50 believe the US will intervene, as it did in World War II, according to the poll.