News

Poll Shows US Isolationist Sentiment Growing

A new opinion poll shows the American public growing more isolationist and less supportive of U.S. missions abroad.

U.S troops stationed in Afghanistan (File)
U.S troops stationed in Afghanistan (File)

A new opinion poll shows the American public growing more isolationist, less supportive of U.S. missions abroad, less certain of American clout on the world stage and more concerned about rising economic powers like China.  Analysts say the survey numbers present a challenge for President Barack Obama as he tries to rally the nation in support of a troop surge in Afghanistan.

Isolationist sentiment is on the rise in the United States, according to a poll conducted by the Washington-based Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.  Forty-nine percent of Americans, the survey says, believe the United States should "mind its own business" and let other nations get along on their own.  That is up from 30 percent in 2002.

"The American public is focused on a bad economy and also feeling badly about the world," said Pew President Andrew Kohut.  "There are two wars that the public thinks are not going well [Iraq and Afghanistan]."

Rising isolationism does not surprise Council on Foreign Relations Studies director James Lindsay.

"When the economy dips, so does the public's enthusiasm for activity abroad," he said.  "The public understandably wants its politicians to worry about fixing problems at home and is less worried about fixing problems overseas."

Lindsay says a growing preoccupation with domestic concerns has implications for U.S. foreign policy in general and President Obama's new Afghan war strategy, in particular.

"The president is sailing into a stiff wind," added Lindsay.

Recent public opinion surveys have shown declining support for sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.  The Pew poll, conducted before President Obama's Afghan strategy announcement this week, shows only 32 percent backing for an expanded U.S. military mission.

Kohut says Americans are increasingly skeptical about U.S. intervention abroad.

"We had eight years of an assertive national foreign policy [under former President George W. Bush]. And that foreign policy, in the end, was judged to be unsuccessful," he said.  "Coming away from an experience like that, it would lead some Americans to believe that we are going to play a less influential, less powerful role in the world."

And which nations do Americans see as filling the vacuum created by a perceived loss of U.S. clout on the world stage?

"The public takes a less-benign view of China's rise.  Fifty-three percent [of Americans] see it as a threat, its emerging power as a threat to the United States," said Kohut.  "Although it is not really a negative attitude towards China, there is worry.  And, more dramatically, for the first time a plurality of Americans think that China - not the United States - is the world's leading economic power."

But if such pessimism and isolationist instincts are fed by current U.S. economic troubles, could an economic recovery reverse the trend?

"What bad economic times can take away, it can give back.  And if the American economy turns around and we see a sustained period of economic growth, I would expect to see these poll numbers change yet again," said Lindsay.

American public opinion also appears to be diverging from that of U.S. foreign policy experts.  A recent poll of 600 members of the Council on Foreign Relations, or CFR, shows 50 percent backing for a troop surge in Afghanistan, and 58 percent listing China as an important future U.S. ally.  Seventy-eight percent of CFR members see China as a minimal threat or no threat at all to the United States.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs