Report

Declining Public Support for Global Engagement

  • September 24, 2008

The public is feeling much better about how the war in Iraq is going these days, but at the same time has a sharply diminished appetite for U.S. efforts to deal with an array of global problems. Fewer people than at any point in this decade assign high priority to such foreign policy goals as preventing genocide, strengthening the United Nations, promoting and defending human rights, and reducing the global spread of AIDS and other infectious diseases.

There also is decreased support for an assertive national security policy. Fully 45% say that reducing U.S. overseas military commitments should be a top policy priority, up 10 points since 2004. Notably, even the goal of halting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction - a widely shared objective for nearly two decades - is now viewed as less important.

A new nationwide survey on foreign policy attitudes by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted in collaboration with the Council on Foreign Relations, finds a striking rise in public optimism about the situation in Iraq. Nearly six-in-ten Americans (58%) say the U.S. military effort there is going well, the highest percentage in more than four years. Yet improving perceptions about the situation in Iraq have done little to increase support for maintaining U.S. troops there.

Half of the public views the war as the wrong decision, while the same percentage favors withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq as soon as possible; these figures have declined only modestly in recent months. By contrast, there is strong public support for maintaining U.S. forces in Afghanistan - a notable exception to the broader trend against global engagement.

Read the full report Declining Public Support for Global Engagement on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.