A new poll finds that a majority 53 percent of Americans believe U.S. power and influence are on the decline, and 70 percent believe the country is less respected internationally than it has been in the past, a number nearly as low as the record 71 percent mark hit during the George W. Bush administration.
The survey, conducted by the Pew Center for the People and the Press and the Council on Foreign Relations, also found widespread dissatisfaction with the Obama administration’s handling of various foreign policy issues.
“Americans are conflicted about the U.S. role in the world,” wrote James M. Lindsay and Rachael Kauss of CFR. “On one hand, record numbers of Americans think the United States should mind its own business internationally and focus on problems at home. On the other hand, they want the United States to play a leading role in world affairs, and they see the benefits of greater involvement in the global economy.”
The survey revealed a deep ambivalence about the role of the United States on the international stage. For the first time since the poll was first taken in 1964, a majority of Americans (52 percent) said they want to see the U.S. “mind its own business internationally.” Fifty-one percent of those surveyed said that the U.S. does too much to help solve world problems.
At the same time, 66 percent of those surveyed believe that increased involvement in the global economy is a good thing for the U.S.
The survey found that 56 percent of Americans disapprove of President Obama’s handling of foreign policy in general, while significant majorities disapproved of the administration’s specific actions with regard to Syria, Iran, China, and Afghanistan. A bright spot for the president was the public perception of his handling of international terrorism, with a bare majority of 51 percent expressing approval of his performance.
On some of the most controversial national security issues of the day, Americans were split. 50 percent believe that the use of drone aircraft has made the country safer. But majorities of those surveyed found that both government surveillance activities and the war in Afghanistan have either made no difference, or made the country less safe. - Follow Rob Garver on Twitter @rrgarver