Role in the World
This section of the Americans and the World
Digest is unique in that it deals with the broader framework
of US foreign policy. Thus, as you will see below, it
provides a kind of road map for many of the other sections
of the Digest. Many of these sections are referenced
herein and placed in this broader context.
General International Engagement
A very strong majority supports US engagement in the world and rejects the idea that the US should take a more isolationist stance. However strong and growing majorities show dissatisfaction with key aspects of the current US role in the world and see it as destabilizing. A majority supports US military bases on the soil of traditional US allies, though support for US military presence in the Middle East has become quite soft.
of Hegemonic Role
A large majority is opposed to the way it
perceives the US playing the role of hegemon or dominant
world leader. Americans express surprisingly modest
concern for preserving the US role as the sole superpower.
Multilateral Cooperation and International Institutions
A very strong majority favors a US role in
the world that puts a greater emphasis on US participation
in multilateral efforts to deal with international problems
and on a cooperative approach wherein the US is quite
attentive to the views of other countries not just US
interests. Very strong majorities favor the US working
through international institutions (especially the United
Nations) and support making international institutions
more powerful. Strong majorities favor international
law and strengthening international judicial institutions.
Americans support US participation in collective security
structures and are reluctant to use military force except
as part of multilateral efforts. A large majority favors
the US using multilateral approaches for dealing with
terrorism, addressing international environmental issues,
and giving aid for economic development.
Altruism, the Global Interest, and the National Interest
A large majority of Americans feel that US foreign policy should at times serve altruistic purposes independent of US national interests. Americans also feel that US foreign policy should be oriented to the global interest not just the national interest and are highly responsive to arguments that serving the global interest ultimately serves the national interest. Americans show substantial concern for global conditions in a wide range of areas.
Concerns US is Doing Disproportionate Amount Internationally
Americans' Assessments of World Public Opinion on the United States
Support for US international engagement
is dampened and obscured by widespread feelings that
the US is doing more than its fair share in efforts
to address international problems relative to other
countries, and spending too much on international programs
relative to domestic programs. However, in many cases
this attitude seems to rest on substantial overestimations
of the levels of US contributions relative to other
countries and international spending as a portion of
the federal budget. Asked to set their own preferred
levels for foreign aid, most Americans usually set them
higher than the actual levels.
Large majorities believe that the US is
viewed negatively by people in other countries and see
this as derived primarily from the current US foreign
policy not American values. Most see goodwill towards
the United States as important for US national security.
Most Americans believe that people around the world are
growing more afraid that the US will use force against
them and that this diminishes US national security and
increases the likelihood that countries will pursue WMDs.
Promoting Democracy and Human Rights
Americans have complex attitudes about the idea
of promoting democracy. A majority thinks that promoting
democracy should be a goal of US foreign policy. However
there is a reluctance to make democracy promotion a
central theme in US foreign policy and an opposition
to using military force or the threat of military force
to that end. At the same time Americans do feel a moral
obligation to promote democracy and there is substantial
support for cooperative methods for promoting democracy
and for working through the United Nations. A modest
majority favors promoting democracy in friendly authoritarian
countries even if it may lead to unfriendly governments;
large majorities do favor putting diplomatic and public
pressure on governments to respect human rights.