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Public Opinion and Foreign Policy

Constant fear-mongering and threat inflation do eventually have an effect on public opinion [1]:

More Republicans than Democrats Say U.S. Does Too Little on Global Problems

As we can see from these results, the increase among those saying that the U.S. does “too little” comes mostly from Republicans, and even among Republicans most say that the U.S. does too much or does the right amount. There is more demand for greater activism than there was nine months ago, but the vast majority of Americans still doesn’t want a more activist foreign policy.  Despite the steady drumbeat for more aggressive U.S. measures in various foreign conflicts, more than two-thirds of Democrats and independents still think the U.S. is doing as much as it should or more than it should to help “solve” world problems. Overall, 63% of all Americans hold those two positions. While a slim majority of respondents in the survey says that they think Obama is not being “tough enough” in his handling of foreign policy and national security issues, a much larger majority also clearly doesn’t want the U.S. to be more involved in trying to resolve foreign conflicts than it is.

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14 Comments To "Public Opinion and Foreign Policy"

#1 Comment By balconesfault On August 28, 2014 @ 4:27 pm

I wonder how much of that increase among the GOP saying we’re doing “too little” in the last year is because they see this as a discriminator they can bash Obama with.

Meanwhile – looks like there’s a big difference among GOP and Dems over what Global Problems the US needs to do something about. GOP voters are consistently more likely to prioritize military issues (Iranian and Korean nuclear programs, Islamic radicalism, Red China) … while far and away the Democrats seem to think “doing something” means taking action on Climate Change (68% of Dems consider this a threat to the US, versus 25% of Republicans).

If you specified in the polling that “doing something” means “military intervention”, the overall percentage saying we’re “doing too little” would drop even more … and the split between Dems and Republicans would grow even wider.

#2 Comment By collin On August 28, 2014 @ 5:45 pm

Interesting take and unfortunatley, the calls of “JIMMMY CARTER!!!!!!” are only to get louder with the Russians sort of/maybe invading The Ukraine. (Can another commenter explain what these two countries are actually doing?) On the other hand, it is interesting that somebody is having a war, and we are not invited! (Yet?)

All I can say keep up the good work Daniel. Can you make an appearance on Meet The Press so when foreign policy is debated it is not Liberal Hawks vs. Neocons?

#3 Comment By EliteCommInc. On August 28, 2014 @ 6:48 pm

“(Can another commenter explain what these two countries are actually doing?)”

I cannot. But it reflects what has been a global ethnic problem. That when boundaries shift, certain populations which have knitted together within them may or may not leave and shift with the border. In Asia and Europe as well as Africa the shifting borders.

Despite living in another country, the original ethnic or national loyalties remain. And those loyalties remain by the mutual parties. So much so that if a particular referenced ethnic is threatened and holler foul, the so aligned nation state responds as if their own border has been crossed. And conflict expressed in word or deed ensues. I think the source is easy to trace. The use of intermarriage and family loyalties to form allegiances, and maintain peace that has existed on these continents for centuries. Blood line and family loyalties are hard to break.

It has been the source of a great many conflicts in Europe, Asia and Africa. In my view it is one of the factors that makes the US unique. If a South Carolinian moves out of state the state of South Carolina feels but no pressure to act on that individuals behalf despite ethnic, cultural ties. But the clan battles of popular folklore in rural communities are a microcosm of that system, in my view. Who’s right or wrong can be secondary to loyalty.

We have similar games, just far more subtle. Don’t jump on whatever bandwagon I am proffering, get on the wrong side of people with power and right or wrong — ethics, even the constitution take a back seat.

I may be off a bit, but I am not far off.

#4 Comment By EliteCommInc. On August 28, 2014 @ 6:50 pm

Excuse the stray

I think they are playing at what is a centuries old dynamic.

#5 Comment By Ken T On August 28, 2014 @ 7:21 pm

“I may be off a bit, but I am not far off.”

I don’t think you’re off at all; I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Great analysis.

#6 Comment By Robert On August 28, 2014 @ 9:11 pm

With the US “involved” in nearly every square meter of land on this planet, it is amazing how easy it is for those who own/ control its institutions to manufacture support among its sheeple.

Today 55% of them believe that Washington is doing “the right amount” or needs to do more in its global interventions. Bad news for the rest of us

#7 Comment By HeartRight On August 28, 2014 @ 9:13 pm

Who’s right or wrong can be secondary to loyalty.

Mon cher avocat, I think that the rights and wrongs are completely beside the point.

Loyalty and solidarity, you scratch my back and I scratch yours. Those are things that matter.

#8 Comment By William Dalton On August 28, 2014 @ 10:49 pm

I note that about one-third of BOTH Democrats and Republicans would like Washington to do less meddling the world. The difference is that among Democrats there are far more that express their support for the Obama Administration than there are among Republicans. Republicans are stuck behind leadership that still insists on calling for more militancy abroad, and that won’t change until the Liberty wing is able to take over the primaries. It’s a work in progress.

But, if there were a Republican in the White House, would Democrats who are now satisfied with Obama’s record as “commander-in-chief” be calling on the Republican to do more? Historically they have supported Republican foreign initiatives cautiously, and when they dissent call for less involvement, not more. Republicans, on the other hand, will shift from the “too little” column to “about right”. Those who think Obama is “too much” will be just as critical of their own party’s President. So the margin of support for “more war” will not survive a change of Party in charge of the White House.

The most significant number is the huge margin for LESS foreign involvement among independents. This tells us clearly that the two major parties have failed in their responsibility to give Americans a true choice at the ballot box on issues of U.S. foreign policy. The question is how that vacuum will be filled.

#9 Comment By HeartRight On August 29, 2014 @ 7:43 am

This tells us clearly that the two major parties have failed in their responsibility to give Americans a true choice at the ballot box on issues of U.S. foreign policy. The question is how that vacuum will be filled.

Either the 3 boxes of opponents of rampant interventionism collude jointly to take control of an existing party, or they will go nowhere.

The boxes within the existing parties might as well not exist at all – since they will be/are nullified by a winner-take-all process in their own party.

#10 Comment By SteveM On August 29, 2014 @ 9:59 am

The problem with these one sided survey questions is that they don’t include an opportunity trade. I.e., something else can be done with the money. Doing “more” in an unconstrained context implies that the money for the foreign shenanigans grows on trees. Which is what G. W. Bush did with the debt funded wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Instead, ask Americans if is better for the U.S. government to spend additional tens of billions on foreign interventions or redirect those tens of billions to address problems at home. Or if taxes should be raised to pay for doing “more”.

The price of interventionism has been camouflaged for decades. Anti-interventionists should be banging the cost drum is parallel with their rejection of militarist interventionism for more abstract reasons. Because money is something everyone understands.

When Obama suggests bombing whoever and supplying weapons, the questions, “What is it going to cost?”, “How is it going to be paid for?” and “Could we spend that money more productively here in the United States?” should always be asked.

#11 Comment By Louis On August 29, 2014 @ 11:06 am

there are 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day. Ask this question:

vote for which you would rather have:
-solvent social security
-solvent medicare
-foreign aid /foreign wars

McCain lost/Romney lost…why…answer the question above…how do you think the average american is going to vote when they have to choose between domestic issues and foreign issues?

#12 Comment By Daniel Fink On August 29, 2014 @ 12:12 pm

“how do you think the average american is going to vote when they have to choose between domestic issues and foreign issues?”

That may depend on whether or not the average American has to wait in a gas line by the fall of’16.

#13 Comment By collin On August 29, 2014 @ 12:33 pm

Thanx EliteCommInc.,

Overall I would agree with your analysis, and living in the United States and especially Southern California, it does feel like you learn to leave behind your past ethnic and cultural ties living here. (I remember going to Angels games in the 1980s against Red Sox or Yankees, and you heard more cheers for visiting team.) At this point in history, I think most European nations are slowly being dragged in this direction and it will be a better world in LONG RUN. Not without a lot of hiccups but somehow the Euro has survived The Great Recession so far. (I wonder if countries will have Economies of Scale in the future.)

However, in the short run, the dance of The Ukraine and Russia might just make our foreign policy look good by comparison. I come to understand Reagan’s foreign policy secret weapon was The Soviet Union.

#14 Comment By tory blue On August 30, 2014 @ 11:30 am

The Pew poll and Pew’s interpretation of it are both pretty slippery, a lot of unwarranted weaving and leaping about among discrete measures. And many of the questions admit ambiguity. For example, “Approve of Obama’s policy toward Israel” sits at 37 percent. But the obvious, salient question isn’t addressed: disapprove because he isn’t sufficiently supportive, or disapprove because he is excessively enabling?

It is interesting, possibly significant, that people now consider Israel-Palestine to be as big a problem for us as the rise of China or climate change. It didn’t appear at all last year, and it’s past time that it did. One can only hope that they also realize that it is a problem for us because we recklessly ignored the advice of wise heads and allowed ourselves to become entangled in it.