Poll Shows Americans Anxious about US Foreign Policy

August 3rd, 2005 - by admin

Voice of America & Reuters – 2005-08-03 09:06:01


Foreign Policy Survey Finds Americans Anxious about Relations with Muslim World
Barbara Schoetzau / Voice ofg America

Listen to Schoetzau’s VOA report on Real Audio (561k download)

NEW YORK ( August 3, 2005) — A new survey focuses on the evolution of US public opinion on foreign policy. The survey, called the Public Agenda Confidence in US Foreign Policy Index, finds Americans anxious about US relations with the Muslim world and puzzled about their nation’s image in the international community.

According to the survey, the relationship between Islam and the West dominates the foreign policy issues that concern Americans the most: the war in Iraq, terrorism, the United States’ image abroad.

The independent opinion research group, Public Agenda, designed the survey and plans to repeat and update it every six months.

One of the founders of Public Agenda, public opinion guru (expert) Daniel Yankelovich, says contrary to conventional wisdom, Americans have always cared about their international image.

“Many polls have reported the growing concern about our engagement in Iraq. What I find particularly interesting in this study is to see that these concerns about Iraq are definitely set in the public mind in the larger context of worries about relations with other nations,” Mr. Yankelovich says. “In particular, there is a deep concern (about) the growing hatred of the United States in Muslim countries and a general loss of trust in friendship in other countries.”

The survey also found that Americans are often inconsistent intheir responses about how to deal with those issues. Sixty-four percent of the respondents said the United States should put more emphasis on diplomatic and economic methods of countering terrorism than military efforts. Yet almost half of the participants said charges that the United States ignores the interests of other nations are not justified. And an overwhelming number, 83 percent, gave the United States high grades for humanitarian efforts.

“There are some aspects that Americans are tremendously proud of, like aid to other countries in the wake of natural disasters. That stands out like a beacon,” Mr. Yankelovich says.

Another big concern, the Confidence in US Foreign Policy Index finds, is immigration, with 41 percent of participants preferring tighter controls on foreign students. Another growing worry, Mr. Yankelovich says, is the outsourcing of jobs from the United States to other countries.

“There is a feeling of inevitability and fatalism that people have that if other countries are offering lower cost labor, then the jobs will simply go there and that the government does not have that much control over it,” Mr. Yankelovich says. “If that becomes a political issue in the future, then that issue will have a lot of dynamism.”

Former Secertary of the Navy Richard Danzig is a member of the board of Public Agenda. He says the on-going survey should be a boon to the public and to policy makers because, unlike other polls, it will track the evolution of public sentiment over time.

“There is no question that terrorists want to influence US publicopinion in directions of disengagement or divisiveness or disillusionment,” Mr. Danzig says. “And there is no question, I think, that our government, leading policy makers always need to think when they consider initiatives about the degree to which the US public will support them.

“The second thing is, I think, for policy makers, a big issue is how you explain to our public what seems to be an optimal course and how you bring it along in the direction you think is desirable.”

The findings are based on telephone interviews and focus groups with about one-thousand adults. Sponsors say this first Foreign Policy Index will serve as the benchmark for future polls to measure changes in public opinion.

Poll Shows Americans Anxious about US Foreign Policy

(August 2, 2005) – Americans are anxious about the direction of US foreign policy and how the country is perceived overseas and a majority believe the government has been too quick to go to war, a survey released on Tuesday said.

“Contrary to conventional wisdom that the American public doesn’t know and doesn’t care how it is seen abroad, strong majorities” believe the US image overseas is suffering and “large majorities are worried about it,” the survey concluded.

Some 63 percent of Americans say the charge that the United States has been too quick to go to war is justified and three-quarters worry about losing trust abroad and about the growing hatred of the United States in Muslim countries, it said.

“So far, public thinking is a disquieting mix of high anxiety, growing uncertainty about current policy and virtually no consensus about what else the country might do,” the survey concluded.

The national survey of 1,004 American adults between June 1 and June 13 was conducted by the Public Agenda, a non-profit organization dedicated to public policy research, in conjunction with Foreign Affairs magazine, which is published by the Council on Foreign Relations.

It was funded by the Ford Foundation and is intended to be the first in a series of surveys designed to produce a “foreign policy index” that measures long-term U.S. thinking on foreign policy.

Dan Yankelovich, Public Agenda’s chairman, declined to describe the results as a reprimand of the Bush administration but said “there is definitely dissatisfaction … a feeling that we’re not on the right track.”

Although much of the concern focused on Iraq and US relations with Muslim countries, the survey found that the problems of illegal immigration and the outsourcing of American jobs overseas also resonated strongly with the public.

These issues have received less attention from political leaders but the survey found that attitudes “are reaching a point where the public’s concerns will be too strong to be ignored.”

Some 64 percent of respondents said the US government should put more emphasis on using diplomatic and economic methods to fight terrorism and 72 percent said that showing more respect for the views and needs of other countries would enhance US security.

But the public also believed strongly in the United States as a force for humanitarian good, with 83 percent giving the country high marks for helping other countries during natural disasters, the survey found.

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