Yesterday I mentioned that the write-up of the new NYT/CBS News poll distorted the results of the poll on one important question. Ryu Spaeth runs with the article’s extremely misleading interpretation:
A new poll from the Times also shows the difficulties a dovish candidate could face. Disapproval of Obama’s foreign policy is at an all-time high, even though a majority largely agrees with his approach to Iraq, particularly his pledge not to send combat troops there. This deep ambivalence can be attributed to the fact that voters “still yearn for their commander in chief to manage foreign crises, even when the solutions are not obvious to them,” according to the Times.
In other words, it is a problem of perception, or more accurately self-perception. Americans have little appetite for foreign misadventures, but they also are reluctant to concede their country’s historical reputation as a great shaper of global events.
That would be a curious contradiction, but the evidence from the poll shows that this is the wrong conclusion. When almost 60% of respondents say that they don’t want the U.S. to take a “leading role” in solving international conflicts, it’s clearly not true that they are “yearning” for foreign crisis management from the president. I doubt that there are very many Americans that are really yearning for this, since it is a very weird thing to yearn for. If there is one thing that we conclude from this survey that most Americans don’t want the president doing, it is taking the “leading role” in foreign conflicts in an attempt to “shape” their outcome. Unfortunately, the NYT article exaggerates the apparent contradictions in the survey responses to make the results seem more surprising than they really are. Obama wants the U.S. to have a “leadership” role in numerous foreign crises and conflicts, most Americans think the U.S. shouldn’t be doing this, and so they are unsurprisingly displeased with what he has been doing in the last year. Dovish candidates undoubtedly do face many obstacles, but a majority of voters that “yearns” for global “leadership” isn’t one of them.