Historically, Public Has Given Low Priority to Promoting Democracy Overseas

Feb 04, 2011

Americans like the idea of their government promoting democracy in other nations. But democracy promotion has historically lagged far behind other objectives among the public's long-term foreign policy goals.

In the most recent "America's Place in the World" survey, conducted in November 2009, just 21% said promoting democracy abroad should be a top long-range priority for U.S. foreign policy. Democracy promotion ranked last on a list of 11 long-term foreign policy objectives. The most widely shared goals -- protecting the nation against terrorist attacks and protecting the jobs of American workers -- were cited by 85% each.

In 2005, during the Bush administration, 24% said promoting democracy abroad should be a top priority. Comparable percentages expressed this view in the "America's Place in the World" surveys conducted in early September 2001, shortly before the 9/11 attacks (29%), 1997 (22%), and 1993 (22%).

Read the full report, Historically, Public Has Given Low Priority to Promoting Democracy Overseas, on the Pew Research Center's Web site.

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