Home/Daniel Larison/Americans Don’t Want a More Aggressive Foreign Policy

Americans Don’t Want a More Aggressive Foreign Policy

Pew released a survey earlier this month on American attitudes on foreign policy and America’s role in the world. Notably, only 27% said that they thought the U.S. does too little in trying to solve world problems:

Shifting partisan opinions on U.S. efforts to solve global problems

There is still not much support for a more activist foreign policy, and a plurality (41%) continues to say that the U.S. does too much around the world. This figure is significantly lower than it was three years ago before the ISIS panic, but even during the summer of 2014 it didn’t drop below 39%. Those saying the U.S. does “too little” haven’t been more than a third of respondents in any of the surveys over the last three years.

There are a few other interesting details. Republicans and independents are both more likely than Democrats to say that the U.S. is doing too much abroad, while a plurality of Democrats is satisfied with the current level of involvement. No doubt the fact that the president is from their party makes more of them comfortable approving of how much the U.S. is doing right now. More Republicans and independents say that the U.S. does too much rather than too little, but a minority also think the U.S. should do more. Relatively few from either group wants to keep things as they are.

Trump supporters are by far the most likely to believe that the U.S. does too much, followed by Cruz and Sanders supporters:

Majority of Trump supporters say U.S. does ‘too much’ globally

Clinton supporters are most likely to say that the U.S. is doing the right amount abroad. That is amusing since it is practically guaranteed that the U.S. will become significantly more activist under Clinton. It is not so surprising that Kasich supporters are most likely to think that the U.S. doesn’t do enough, and that is much more consistent with Kasich’s own reckless foreign policy views.

Americans have no appetite for the more aggressive foreign policy we are all but certain to get from a Clinton administration. The prevailing view in Washington that the U.S. has not been activist enough around the world in recent years is absolutely not shared by most Americans, and demands to “do more” in response to various conflicts and crises speak for little more than a quarter of the public. While there have been some fluctuations in the level of support over the last few years, there continues to be a broad and persistent constituency for a less activist and meddlesome foreign policy, and that has been reflected in the primary results over the last few months.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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