Eroding Respect for America Seen as Major Problem

  • August 19, 2004

For the first time since the Vietnam era, foreign affairs and national security issues are looming larger than economic concerns in a presidential election, according to this survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The Sept. 11 attacks and the two wars that followed not only have raised the stakes for voters as they consider their choice for president, but also have created deep divisions and conflicting sentiments over U.S. foreign policy in a troubled time.

Dissatisfaction with Iraq is shaping opinions about foreign policy as much, if not more than, Americans' continuing concerns over terrorism. Both attitudes now inform the public's point of view of the U.S. role in the world. Tellingly, the poll finds about as many respondents favoring a decisive foreign policy (62%) as supporting a cautious approach (66%). And reflecting an ever-widening partisan gap on foreign policy issues, Republicans assign higher priority to decisiveness than to caution, while Democrats do just the opposite.

The survey, conducted in association with the Council on Foreign Relations, also finds the public is acutely aware of -- and worried about -- the loss of international respect for the United States given disillusionment over Iraq. Two-thirds say the U.S. is less respected by other countries than in the past, and this opinion is particularly prevalent among opponents of the Iraq war.