08/28/2014 05:25 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Growing Minority Of Americans Think We're Too Isolationist


Rising concern about international threats has caused some Americans to reassess how active the U.S. should be abroad, a new Pew/USA Today poll

While the wide majority of Americans still think the U.S. does too much or the right amount to help solve the world's problems, the number who say the U.S. should be doing more has nearly doubled since last fall, while the faction who say it should do less has diminished.

Members of both parties, as well as independents, are now more likely to say the U.S. should be doing more, but the change is especially pronounced among the GOP. Forty-six percent of Republicans now say the U.S. does too little, up from only 18 percent last November.

President Barack Obama wins few plaudits on international relations. A 54-percent majority of Americans say he isn't tough enough on national security, up from his first term but little changed since last fall. Barely more than a third of Americans approve of his handling of situations in Russia, Israel and Iraq. Other surveys show his overall foreign policy rating at the worst it's been during his presidency.

Recent polling has also demonstrated the U.S.'s strong, if slightly muddled, isolationist streak, with Americans looking for their country to be less active in international affairs, while still projecting an image of strength.

The Pew/USA Today results, however, suggest some level of recalibration on what role the U.S. should play in a world that 65 percent say is more dangerous than it was several years ago. While concern about al Qaeda has remained steady, worries about Russia have also risen, and two-thirds now also view the Islamic State as a major threat.

The shift in opinions isn't only at an abstract level. Support for U.S. airstrikes in Iraq grew significantly after they went from a hypothetical possibility to a policy announced by President Barack Obama. A HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted in June found just 44 percent in favor of airstrikes; by late August, that figure rose to 66 percent, although most remained adamantly opposed to any U.S. ground presence.

The Pew/USA Today poll used live calls to landlines and cell phones to survey 1,501 Americans between Aug. 20 and Aug. 24.



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