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Home/Daniel Larison/Public Opinion and U.S. “Leadership”

Public Opinion and U.S. “Leadership”

Speaking of public opinion and foreign policy, there is a result in the new NYT/CBS News poll that didn’t make it into the news write-up that is worth noting. According to the poll, 58% said that the U.S. should not take the leading role “among all other countries in the world in trying to solve international conflicts,” and just 37% believe that the U.S. should do this. That would suggest that the public is increasingly dissatisfied with Obama’s foreign policy performance at least partly because he has been trying to “lead” in response to too many foreign crises, which is just what most Americans claim not to want. So the NYT article’s claim that the survey “indicates that people may still yearn for their commander in chief to manage foreign crises” is not just misleading, but flatly contradicts one of their own findings. If there are people that “yearn” for this, they are a distinct minority at this point.

The responses on Iraq in particular are also worth reviewing. 57% of respondents said that they don’t believe the U.S. has a responsibility to ensure that Iraq has a stable democracy, 50% say that the U.S. doesn’t have a responsibility to address violence in Iraq, and only 29% believe that the U.S. should be doing more than what Obama is already doing. 22% believe he should be doing less. While a bare majority (51%) approves of the president’s decision to send 300 “advisers” to Iraq, there is very little confidence that this will have any positive effect. 43% expect that it will not have much of an effect one way or the other, and 28% expect that it will contribute to an increase in violence. A record-high 75% say that the Iraq war was not worth the cost. Finally, 57% also say that the situation in Iraq is beyond America’s control. That seems to me to be the most telling figure: it is an acknowledgment from most Americans that the U.S. is unable to remedy the situation, and that informs the general reluctance to make the attempt.

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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