Foreign Policy: The Public Sends a Muddled Message, No Clear Directions for Policymakers

Source Organization: Pew Research Center

03/08/2007 - Both the White House and Congress face difficult decisions with respect to foreign policy in the final two years of Bush's term. Yet, the polls suggest that policymakers can expect little in the way of clear guidance from the public. Opinion surveys find much in the way of public frustration, but little in the way of direction on the international and military front.

Obviously, Iraq is the number one issue -- almost the only foreign policy issue -- on the public's radar. And the message from the latest major public opinion polls seems loud and clear: Let's get out ASAP. But, beyond that basic expression of disillusionment, there's not much consensus about how to get out or when. Certainly, one finds no clear directive for policy makers in either party. Some examples:

Item: Troop Withdrawals – Pew's latest poll finds a 53%-majority of the public now thinks that the United States should bring its troops home "as soon as possible." Okay, but how soon is "possible"?

Questioned further, this group favoring expeditious troop withdrawal from Iraq appears to be far from committed to an immediate retreat. By more than two-to-one (35% to 16%) they opt for a gradual withdrawal "over the next year or two," rather than removing all troops immediately.

But that still substantial minority of Americans who opt to stay the course until the situation in Iraq has stabilized are similarly ambivalent. Among this group, four-in-ten in Pew's January poll favored setting a timetable for when troops will be withdrawn.

Read the full report Foreign Policy: The Public Sends a Muddled Message, No Clear Directions for Policymakers on the Pew Research Center Web site. 

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