POLITICS

Nearly Half Of Americans Say U.S. Should Be Less Active In Foreign Affairs

04/30/2014 10:09 am ET | Updated Apr 30, 2014

Nearly half of Americans want to see the country play less of a role on the world stage, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Wednesday.

Forty-seven percent of Americans say the U.S. should be less active in world affairs, while 30 percent think it should remain at its current level. Just 19 percent want to see the country become more involved.

Those opinions represent a stark change from just after the 9/11 attacks. In September 2001, 37 percent of Americans thought the country should be more active, and only 14 percent wanted it to take a less active role.

While the NBC/WSJ poll hasn't asked the same question in the intervening years, other questions show similar support for an isolationist approach. From 2005 to 2012, the percentage of of Americans saying the country should "focus more on our own problems here at home" jumped 20 percentage points, from 54 percent to 74 percent. CBS polls in the past two years found that a majority of Americans don't want the U.S. to take a leading role in solving conflicts.

That reluctance to become embroiled in foreign affairs was also apparent in recent polling on Ukraine, which found little support for action beyond sanctions, as well as deep skepticism that America had an obligation to intervene.

Americans may not want a starring role on the world stage, but they also don't want to appear weak. In the latest NBC/WSJ poll, a 55 percent majority said it was more important for the president to "present an image of strength" and a willingness to confront enemies and stand up for principles, rather than to "present an image that America has a more open approach" and is willing to negotiate.

Just 38 percent of Americans approved of President Barack Obama's approach on foreign policy, a new low in the NBC/WSJ poll. However, 42 percent described his approach as striking the right balance, while 36 percent said he was too cautious and 15 percent said he was too bold.

NBC/WSJ polled 1,000 adults by phone from April 23 to April 27, reaching both landlines and cell phones.

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