Six in 10 Americans Say United Nations Doing Poor Job

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Highest negative rating for U.N. in Gallup polling history

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The United States is now looking for increased U.N. involvement in the reconstruction of Iraq, representing a shift from earlier policy favoring a more limited U.N. role. The United Nations' refusal to back the U.S.-led military action in Iraq has greatly affected the way Americans view the world organization. A recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll finds a majority of Americans saying the United Nations' failure to support the Iraq invasion caused them to view the United Nations less favorably. In addition, 6 in 10 Americans now say the United Nations is doing a poor job of handling the problems it has had to face, the highest negative rating Gallup has measured on this item since 1953. Nevertheless, 61% of Americans believe the United States should continue to fund the United Nations at current or higher levels.

Decision Not to Support Iraq Invasion Causes U.N. Ratings to Plummet

The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted Aug. 25-26, finds 37% of Americans saying the United Nations is doing "a good job of trying to solve the problems it has had to face," while 60% say it is doing a poor job. The latter figure is the highest negative percentage Gallup has measured since it began asking the question in 1953 (the United Nations was founded in 1945). Historically, there have been times when the positive ratings of the United Nations have been lower than the 37% found in the most recent poll. For example, just 28% of Americans said the United Nations was doing a good job in August 1985, two months after Muslim terrorists hijacked a TWA airliner, held passengers hostage for two weeks, and killed one American. However, when the percentage giving the United Nations a positive evaluation was lower than it is now, a substantial proportion of Americans did not have an opinion of the organization, so the percentage of negative evaluations never reached 60%.

Do you think the United Nations is doing a good job or a poor job in trying to solve the problems it has had to face?

The war with Iraq and the U.N. decision not to support U.S. policy plays a significant role in the current low ratings. As recently as January 2003, Americans had a net-positive view of the United Nations, with 50% saying it was doing a good job and 42% a bad job. But after unsuccessful attempts to win over reluctant members of the Security Council, including a highly publicized address by Secretary of State Colin Powell in February, the percentage of Americans giving the United Nations positive marks fell to 37% by mid-March, just days before the war began. The public's views of the United Nations have not improved over the past several months. Other Gallup polling conducted just prior to the start of the war shows Americans' ratings of countries that opposed the invasion, such as France, Germany, and Russia, also becoming more negative.

The current poll also finds 55% of Americans saying the U.N. policy on the Iraq invasion gives them a less favorable view of the organization. Fifteen percent of Americans say it gives them a more favorable view, and 29% say it does not make much difference in their opinion.

As you may know, earlier this year the United Nations Security Council did not support the invasion of Iraq. How did that affect your view of the United Nations? Did it make you have a – more favorable view of the U.N., did it not make much difference, or did it make you have a less favorable view of the U.N.?
Aug. 25-26, 2003

Ratings of the United Nations on the "good/poor job" item have fallen among most major subgroups. This is even true among Democrats and self-identified liberals, two key subgroups in which relatively high proportions say they have a more favorable view of the United Nations for not supporting the invasion.

Ratings of the United Nations by Subgroup

Group

January 2003
Percentage "Good Job"

August 2003
Percentage "Good Job"

 

Change

%

%

Overall

50

37

-13

Men

46

28

-18

Women

53

45

-8

18- to 29-years-old

54

42

-12

30- to 49-years-old

51

35

-16

50- to 64-years-old

44

35

-9

65 +

51

37

-14

Postgraduate education

48

26

-22

College graduate only

48

34

-14

Some college

50

35

-15

High school or less

51

43

-8

Conservative

40

31

-9

Moderate

53

40

-13

Liberal

60

41

-19

Republican

36

23

-13

Independent

50

39

-11

Democrat

65

47

-18

Only about 18 months ago, in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and an overwhelming international response to fight terrorism, 58% of Americans said the United Nations was doing a good job, the most positive evaluation Americans have ever given the United Nations in a Gallup Poll.

Half of Americans Prefer No Change in U.S. Funding

Despite overall negative views of the United Nations, a majority of Americans say the United States should keep its funding of the United Nations the same (50%) or increase it (11%). A substantial minority, 37%, favors a decrease in funding.

Views on this matter are generally consistent across subgroups. Older Americans (those 65 and older) are one exception to this general pattern, with this group as likely to favor a cut in U.S. funding (41%), as it is to favor a continuation of current policy (40%). A majority of older men actually favor a decrease.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,009 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Aug. 25-26, 2003. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects 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.

5. Do you think the United Nations is doing a good job or a poor job in trying to solve the problems it has had to face?

 

Good job

Poor job

No opinion

%

%

%

2003 Aug 25-26

37

60

3

2003 Mar 14-15 ^

37

58

5

2003 Jan 23-25

50

42

8

2002 Oct 21-22 ^

43

51

6

2002 Feb 4-6

58

36

6

2001 Feb 1-4

54

38

8

2000 May 18-21

52

43

5

1996 Feb 23-25

46

46

8

1995 Oct 19-22

36

49

15

1995 Sep 19-22

36

49

15

1995 Aug 28-30

35

56

9

1993 Jun 18-21

46

41

14

1993 Mar 29-31

52

44

5

1990 Oct 18-21

54

34

12

1985 Aug 13-15

28

54

18

1985 Feb 15-18

38

44

18

1983 Oct 7-10

36

51

13

1982 Jun 25-28

36

49

15

1980 Sep 12-15

31

53

16

1978 Feb 24-27

40

39

21

1975 Nov 21-24

32

51

16

1971 Oct 29-Nov 2

35

43

22

1970 Aug 25-Sep 1

44

40

16

1967 Jul 13-18

50

35

16

1953 Dec 11-16

55

30

15

^

Asked of a half sample.



6. As you may know, earlier this year the United Nations Security Council did not support the invasion of Iraq. How did that affect your view of the United Nations? Did it make you have a – [ROTATED: more favorable view of the U.N., did it not make much difference, or did it make you have a less favorable view of the U.N.]?

 

More
favorable

Not much difference

Less
favorable

No
opinion

2003 Aug 25-26

15%

29

55

1



7. Do you think the United States should – [ROTATED: increase its funding of the United Nations, keep it the same, or decrease its funding of the United Nations]?

 

Increase funding

Keep the
same

Decrease funding

No
opinion

2003 Aug 25-26

11%

50

37

2



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