Wednesday, August 3, 2005
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So what do Americans think about their foreign policy?
Foreign Affairs has launched a joint project with Public Agenda to gauge the American public's attitudes towards U.S. foreign policy. The "Confidence in U.S. Foreign Policy Index" is designed to poll public attitudes repeatedly over time, so this first poll mostly serves as a useful baseline.
So what did they find out? Well, according to the press release, Public Agenda Chairman Daniel Yankelovich says:
Yankelovich has clearly been using the Pundit Handbook -- replace "the country’s current course" with any public policy problem you like and that sentence can be recycled (I have no doubt Yankelovich also believes that baseball players "just need to play one game at a time").
Seriously, the big news seems to be that Americans are concerned about how non-Americans view their country:
Indeed, at this graph suggests, Americans also seem to prefer using "soft power" approaches to combat radical Islamists:
The irony, of course, is that when asked about some of these economic measures -- say, trade and immigration -- our mercantilist impulse kicks in.
The immigration questions focus primarily on illegal kind of immigration, and the trade questions have less to do with trade and more to do with jobs, so maybe America's schizophrenia is overrated. But it's certainly there.
UPDATE: Yankelovich also has an essay in the forthcoming issue of Foreign Affairs summarizing the poll's findings. One nugget of information that seems interesting:
posted by Dan on 08.03.05 at 12:01 AM
Hmmmm. When given a one or the other choice, most Americans say the government should put less "emphasis on military efforts abroad" and more "emphasis on [unspecified] diplomatic and economic methods." Wow, that told me a lot.
They also want less immigration and less foreign trade.
Some clever person should come up with a name for this. Maybe something like "isolation" with an "ism" at the end. If perchance someone has already used that term, maybe stick a "neo" at the front.posted by: Roger Sweeny on 08.03.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]
I would hope the government is earning an F on protecting jobs. Sadly, we're not there yet.posted by: Dylan on 08.03.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]
I think Yankelovich has an essay setting out the main findings and their implications in the next essay of FA, no? due out in a few weeks? so maybe it'll be worth updating this at that point to include a link. And I think you're being just a bit overly jaded about the banality of the results. Yes, they're not exactly shocking. But as you say, the real interest will come from changes over time. And I think they make a useful contribution in highlighting the importance of perceived alternative policy options in driving whether the public's feelings will have any real impact. Thus, a big point on outsourcing is not just that people don't like it, but that they also seem to perceive it as kinda inevitable, and so aren't really about to punish politicians for not stopping it. That's worth mulling, no?
lcposted by: lamont cranston on 08.03.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]
I'm not sure I see anything in the attitudes reported here that deserves to be called schizophrenic. In particular the contradiction between Americans' unease at how their country is perceived in the Muslim world and their dissatisfaction at the high level of illegal immigration from Mexico escapes me.
The question about foreign students was unfortunate. Break that 41% out, and you would likely find a large number of people concerned about students from a small number of countries, and a small number of people concerned about students from most countries.posted by: Zathras on 08.03.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]
Regarding the last point, Onward Christian Soldiers! I do wonder if the ultra-religious support the current foreign policy course ONLY because they are Republicans and not because of the substance of the policy. That's not to deny that many fundamentalist Christians actually want warfare in the Middle East (to bring on the Rapture) but it seems likely that the religion connection is mediated entirely by party loyalty and nothing else. If a hawkish Democrat - say Biden or Lieberman - had been pursuing the same policies the religious connection would be much less because Christian extremists (especially white ones) tend not to vote Democrat.posted by: Elrod on 08.03.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]
These are the kind of respomses you get from people who get their news from newspapers (and MSM generally). Is there an echo in here?posted by: Lee on 08.03.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]
I do wonder if the ultra-religious support the current foreign policy course ONLY because they are Republicans and not because of the substance of the policy.
Seems to me that it likely goes: the more religious you are, the more likely you are to be a Republican. And Republicans are more likely to be content with current U.S. foreign policy than are Democrats.posted by: Al on 08.03.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]
"These are the kind of respomses you get from people who get their news from newspapers"
I'm not sure if Lee was being funny intentionally or unintentionally, but either way he succeeded. presumably, one should care about the responses from those who don't read newspapers. yes, ignorance is bliss, war is peace, intelligent design is science. which century are we in again?
lcposted by: lamont cranston on 08.03.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]
And yet Americans continue to vote for Bush and
I think these polls are crap...
"That's not to deny that many fundamentalist Christians actually want warfare in the Middle East (to bring on the Rapture)"
I find this statement utterly implausible, and a strawman, and spoken by someone who doesn't understand Fundamentalist Christians and is projecting his own uninformed stereotypes.
On the other hand, I personally don't understand Fundamentalist Christians myself. Do you have any evidence supporting this statement?
Steveposted by: Steve on 08.03.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]
Is it time to begin talking about secular fundamentalists and that wing that can only be called secular extremists?posted by: Banjo on 08.03.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]
"Half of Americans give the U.S. a "D" or "F" grade on protecting American jobs from going overseas (and three in ten chose "F")."
Good! We should be failing miserably at preventing jobs from going overseas, in fact we shouldn't even be trying. We should be focused on helping to foster the creation of new kinds of jobs that fit the economy of today and tomorrow, a task which neither party seems to have the patience for.
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