Americans Retain an “Internationalist” Perspective

by David W. Moore

But less positive than last year about U.S. image abroad

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Most Americans continue to believe that the United States should play at least a major role in trying to solve international problems, and a small majority believes the United States is viewed favorably by the rest of the world. But majorities also believe that President George W. Bush is not respected by foreign leaders and disapprove of the way Bush has handled foreign affairs. Overall, Americans are about evenly divided as to whether they are satisfied or dissatisfied with the position of the United States in the world today, in contrast to their much more positive views last year, during the Iraq war.

These results come from Gallup's annual World Affairs poll, conducted Feb. 9-12, which shows that 74% of Americans believe the United States should take either the leading role (21%) or a major role (53%) in world affairs.

Next we would like you to think about the role the U.S. should play in trying to solve international problems. Do you think the U.S. should -- [ROTATED: take the leading role in world affairs, take a major role, but not the leading role, take a minor role, (or) take no role at all in world affairs]?

 

Leading role

Major role

Minor role

No role

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2004 Feb 9-12

21

53

21

4

1

2003 Feb 3-6

26

53

16

3

2

2002 Feb 4-6

26

52

16

4

2

2001 Feb 1-4

16

57

21

4

2



These views have varied only a little over the past three years, although the percentage saying "leading" role increased after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when Americans supported efforts to combat the terrorists. The decline this year could be due to the problems the country faces in Iraq. Still, in all four polls, more than 70% of Americans said the United States should play either a major or the leading role in world affairs.

While most Americans continue to express an "internationalist" view, they have become decidedly less positive about the position of the United States in the world today. Just 47% say they are satisfied, while 51% are dissatisfied.

Satisfaction With the United States'
Position in the World Today

At the beginning of the Bush administration, most Americans were satisfied, a view that persisted after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. By February 2003, however, this positive view had declined, and public sentiment was about the same as it is today. A month later, the war in Iraq stimulated a positive public reaction to this question, but today, in the wake of prolonged fighting and uncertainty in that country, along with criticisms from the Democrats running for president, the public is once again evenly divided.

Bush and United States Seen in Less Positive Light

The current poll shows that compared with last spring, during the Iraq war, Americans now have a more negative assessment of how the world perceives the United States and its president. A solid majority, 57%, believes Bush is not respected by foreign leaders, while only 39% believe he is. These percentages are similar to those measured by Gallup in a Feb. 17-19 poll last year, before the Iraq war. After the war began, the public became temporarily more positive, but even then, slightly more people felt the president was not respected than felt he was.

Do Leaders of Other Countries Around the
World Have Respect for George W. Bush?

A similar pattern is found on the question of how the United States is viewed in the eyes of the world. Currently, 54% of Americans believe their country is viewed positively, 45% negatively. These figures are identical to those found in the Feb. 17-19 poll last year, but worse than the figures found in an April poll last year, after the war in Iraq was underway.

How Does the United States Rate in the
Eyes of the World?

Bush Approval on Foreign Affairs Down

The poll shows 46% of Americans approving of the way Bush is handling foreign affairs, with 52% disapproving. These figures are virtually identical to those measured in a similar poll at the end of January, but considerably worse than the approval measured in early January (58% approval, 39% disapproval).

Bush Approval on Foreign Affairs

These results, and the timing of the decline, suggest that much of the change in public opinion about the United States in world affairs may be related to the presidential campaign as well as to objective changes in the world. For several months, Democratic candidates have attacked Bush for an "arrogant" foreign policy of "going it alone," among other things. Bush's approval on foreign affairs declined to 46% in the fall, but then rebounded after Bush's trip to visit the troops in Iraq on Thanksgiving, as well as in January, after the capture of Saddam Hussein. The recent decline in his foreign affairs approval rating followed widespread publicity given to the Democratic candidates during the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Bush's overall job approval rating also declined during this time.

Partisan Views

All of the measures about foreign affairs are highly related to people's party affiliation. Republicans, for example, are satisfied with the position of the United States in the world, by a margin of 72% to 28%, while Democrats are dissatisfied by virtually the same margin. Independents are evenly divided.

On all other issues, a similar pattern is found, with Democrats much more negative and Republicans much more positive in their assessments.

On the role of the United States, majorities of all three partisan groups say the country should play a "major" role, but 32% of Republicans say it should take "the leading" role, compared with 22% of independents and 11% of Democrats. Similarly, 32% of Democrats say the country should take "a minor" or "no" role, compared with 25% of independents and 17% of Republicans.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,002 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 9-12, 2004. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Turning back to George W. Bush,

10. Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

B. Foreign affairs

 


Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

%

%

%

2004

2004 Feb 9-12

46

52

2

2004 Jan 29-Feb 1

46

51

3

2004 Jan 2-5

58

39

3

2003

2003 Dec 5-7

53

43

4

2003 Nov 3-5

46

50

4

2003 Oct 6-8

49

49

2

2003 Sep 8-10

52

45

3

2003 Aug 25-26

55

42

3

2003 Jul 25-27

54

42

4

2003 Jul 18-20

54

41

5

2003 Jul 7-9

55

42

3

2003 Jun 12-15

58

39

3

2003 May 5-7

68

30

2

2003 Apr 14-16

65

31

4

2003 Mar 29-30

64

31

5

2003 Mar 24-25

65

30

5

2003 Mar 14-15

53

43

4

2003 Feb 3-6

49

46

5

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

57

39

4

2003 Jan 23-25

50

45

5

2003 Jan 10-12

53

42

5

2003 Jan 3-5

60

35

5

2002

2002 Dec 9-10

59

35

6

2002 Nov 8-10

59

36

5

2002 Oct 21-22

58

35

7

2002 Jul 26-28

63

30

7

2002 Jul 5-8

71

25

4

2002 Jun 28-30

66

27

7

2002 May 20-22

70

23

7

2002 Apr 5-7 ^

70

24

6

2002 Mar 22-24

71

22

7

2002 Mar 1-3

78

17

5

2002 Feb 4-6

79

16

5

2002 Jan 25-27

83

14

3

2001

2001 Oct 5-6

81

14

5

2001 Jul 10-11

54

33

13

2001 May 18-20

55

35

10

2001 Apr 20-22 ^

56

31

13

2001 Mar 9-11

52

27

21

2001 Feb 1-4

46

21

33



11. Do you think leaders of other countries around the world have respect for George W. Bush, or do you think they don't have much respect for him?

 

Respect him

Don't have much respect for him

No opinion

%

%

%

George W. Bush

2004 Feb 9-12

39

57

4

2003 Apr 14-16

46

48

6

2003 Mar 22-23

44

48

8

2003 Feb 17-19

40

55

5

2003 Feb 3-6

46

48

6

2002 Apr 29-May 1

63

31

6

2002 Feb 4-6

75

21

4

2001 Jul 19-22

45

47

8

2001 Jun 8-10

40

46

14

2001 Feb 1-4

49

38

13

Bill Clinton

2000 May 18-21

44

51

5

1994 Sep 23-25

41

55

5

^

Asked of a half sample.



12. In general, how closely do you follow news about foreign countries around the world, including relations between the United States and other countries -- very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely, or not at all?

 

Very closely

Somewhat closely

Not too closely

Not at all

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2004 Feb 9-12

28

53

16

3

*

2003 Feb 3-6

30

52

14

4

*

2002 Feb 4-6

26

56

15

3

*

2001 Feb 1-4

16

55

25

4

*

2000 May 18-21

15

50

27

7

1

* Less than 0.5%



13. On the whole, would you say that you are satisfied or dissatisfied with the position of the United States in the world today?

 

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

No opinion

%

%

%

2004 Feb 9-12

47

51

2

2003 Apr 14-16

67

30

3

2003 Mar 22-23

69

29

2

2003 Feb 17-19

48

50

2

2003 Feb 3-6

55

43

2

2002 Feb 4-6

71

27

2

2001 Feb 1-4

67

30

3

2000 May 18-21

65

33

2

1966 Sep 8-13

44

46

10

1965 Aug 5-10

43

48

8

1962 Jul 18-23

44

45

12



15. In general, how do you think the United States rates in the eyes of the world -- very favorably, somewhat favorably, somewhat unfavorably, or very unfavorably?

 

Very
favor-
ably

Somewhat favorably

Somewhat unfavorably

Very
unfavor-
ably

No
opin-
ion

%

%

%

%

%

2004 Feb 9-12

10

44

34

11

1

2003 Apr 14-16

12

49

28

9

2

2003 Feb 17-19

7

47

34

11

1

2003 Feb 3-6

11

46

34

7

2

2002 Mar 8-9 ^

20

46

26

5

3

2002 Feb 4-6

20

59

17

3

1

2001 Feb 1-4

18

57

20

4

1

2000 May 18-21

20

53

22

4

1

^

Asked of a half sample.



16. Next we would like you to think about the role the U.S. should play in trying to solve international problems. Do you think the U.S. should -- [ROTATED: take the leading role in world affairs, take a major role, but not the leading role, take a minor role, (or) take no role at all in world affairs]?

 

Leading role

Major role

Minor role

No role

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2004 Feb 9-12

21

53

21

4

1

2003 Feb 3-6

26

53

16

3

2

2002 Feb 4-6

26

52

16

4

2

2001 Feb 1-4

16

57

21

4

2



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