New Poll: only 1 in 4 in US want more American involvement abroad; Cuba & Iran lower on List

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) – –

A new NORC/ AP poll, done before the Iran deal was announced by President Obama, shows how out of touch most of the presidential candidates are on foreign policy public opinion.

The American public just doesn’t want more involvement overseas. To be exact, a third of Americans want less involvement overseas and a third is satisfied with the amount we have. Only about a fourth wants a more pro-active foreign policy.


That speech GOP presidential Marco Rubio made yesterday about how wrong President Obama’s policies are on Cuba and Iran? Those weren’t the high items on the public’s list. Only a third even care what the president’s position is on Cuba. Something over two-thirds did care about the president’s policies toward Iran. But that issue was less on their minds than terrorism and Daesh (ISIS, ISIL). Respectively, 90% and 86% wanted to know the prospective president’s position on terrorism and Daesh.

Americans are enthusiastic about using diplomacy and economic tools to promote US interests abroad. The only times they really want to see military action is in defense of the US and its allies from a terrorist attack, or to stop a country blowing up an atomic bomb.

The public is desperately uninterested in military democracy promotion of the sort the Bush administration said it was doing in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it isn’t really happy about deploying military tools for virtually any non-defensive goal.

Listening especially to the GOP candidates, you hear a lot of saber-rattling of a sort this poll says most Americans don’t approve of. You hear a lot of talk of issues like Cuba, about which they couldn’t care less. You hear a lot of trashing of diplomacy, but the American public really likes the idea of achieving goals through diplomatic means. With a couple of exceptions, the US public is far more sensible than the people who say they want to lead it.

15 Responses

  1. The news that needs to be faced here is that with JEB you may very well be looking at the next POTUS. Just saying.

    The good news is that having seen him in action for years, one cannot help but be impressed by his political skill, brains, humanity, and a bunch of other stuff you want to see in a President. (I suppose we need to make the caveat here about just how much a President can really effect things, given the momentum of events, political pressure, etc. Starting wars is easiest thing they can do. See how much Obama has really been able to do). So, in theory there is hope.

    Other good news is that all hopefuls have to play to their base for the primaries. For the GOP that includes kissing Sheldon Adelson’s ring. As an experienced Pol he’s saying what he has to do and doing what he has to do, trying to leave enough room so he (hopefully) can squirm out of whatever he may say.

    The real problem here is that after a couple years repeatedly saying what he must say, and thinking what he must think to create an effective reality for others and himself (the first person the salesman must sell is himself), he starts to believe his own BS.

    At that point he becomes the New JEB, adapted and refined for the purpose of his betters in 2016, and the personal ability to make a real….difference.

  2. The rationales of warmongers are never accompanied by fact and argument, because their goal is merely tyranny over a democracy, usually practiced by creating a foreign enemy so as to demand domestic power as protectors and to accuse their opponents of disloyalty. The warmonger never has a history of, or a plan for humanitarian results, never understands the cultural or historical context. In fact the warmonger merely shops for propaganda fragments and shouts them while waving the flag, an infantile bully, the lowest imitation of masculinity. It is well to point out to others that lack of reasoning, but it has no effect upon them, because their intended audience is the timid and the ignorant: those fearful of bullies and the irrationality of their own kind.

    Advocates of war, other than repelling invasions, should be required to fight it in the most hazardous positions, and then jailed for the resulting war crimes.

    They should be jailed also because the Constitution allows no warmaking powers to the government but these: suppressing insurrections and repelling invasions. Only a treaty can modify that, and NATO was intended solely for mutual defense, never for aggressive war. There is no US warmaking power, and those who press for war should be jailed.

  3. I should add that there is no history of successful “democracy promotion” by aggressive war. The tree of democracy requires a suitable soil and sunlight: when fired from the barrel of a cannon it becomes a cloud of burning splinters. It does not work at all among warring factions, as shown in Iraq. It does not even work where peace has reigned for generations if there is a major issue on which the factions are not rational, as shown by the US Civil War, and by the war in Ukraine. Those who claim democracy as a benefit of war are the lowest saboteurs of democracy, and seek only to fool their betters by wrapping themselves in the flag.

    • Well, I think that people believe that the defeat of fascism in 1945 promoted democracy, but there were unusual circumstances and it was a side effect of many countries fighting for their survival against a particular anti-democratic ideology that failed to deliver on its promises to conquer the world.

      • Yes, certainly a defensive war may preserve a democracy, but an aggressive war is very unlikely to create one.

  4. “Respectively, 90% and 86% wanted to know the prospective president’s position on terrorism and Daesh.”

    If the media were not so hyperactive and biased, this number would be much less, in keeping with the real dangers to the USA. Terror attacks are way down on the list.

  5. It does not matter what the American people want. The Republicans learned long ago that the only thing that matters is what the Republicans want. When the Republicans crank up their echo chamber, the media will slavishly repeat the Republicans point of view, and America’s thinking will conform accordingly.

    • Exactly. We have no more than a fake democracy even in the US, so it is vain to speak of US “democracy promotion.” That must begin at home, with amendments to the Constitution to restrict funding of elections and mass media to registered limited individual contributions. Then we shall see very few advocates of foreign war, and hopefully more advocates of foreign humanitarian interventions and multilateral diplomatic initiatives to resolve conflicts before they become violent.

      • The problem is that the Republicans have cleverly encouraged the conversion of bipartisan military largesse into a form of welfare for Republican constituencies based on their bullying dogma that they are better Americans than everyone else. Now that this belief is part of the Red State “culture” it will be violently defended no matter if we overthrow the elite lobbyists who helped create it. Gun ownership and militarism are so tied together that the only alternative is a gun culture so extreme it even rejects the central government in favor of a neo-Confederate militia fantasy.

  6. Those same low-info Americans who are sick of foreign involvement in general will be the very first ones to freak out when they’re bombarded by propaganda about a specific threat from a specific foreign state that fits the right stereotypes. Which is why those pre-agreement poll numbers from Prof. Cole look very different than the ever-declining support for the agreement now that the warmongerers have a target to aim at.

  7. Who cares about these polls and their results. In American democracy people elect their leaders but the elected leaders decide the foreign policy based on the requirements of the filthy rich, the Israeli firstsers, the neo cons and the people who control the Military Industrial Complex,

    America is the best example of a PLUTOCRACY but pretend to be a successful democracy

Comments are closed.