Wed, Apr 04, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Poll shows falling public confidence in US foreign policy


Americans are increasingly anxious about the direction of US foreign policy, with little public appetite for using military force to settle international disputes, a poll released yesterday showed.

The Confidence in US Foreign Policy Index, published by think tank Public Agenda and the magazine Foreign Affairs, also found rising concern for the way the US is seen abroad and strong support for pulling US troops from Iraq.

"This latest Confidence in US Foreign Policy Index ... provides mounting evidence of widespread public doubt about the country's international position," the two organizations said in the study.

Public Agenda's Anxiety Indicator, which is billed as gauging Americans' anxiousness or contentment with US foreign policy, stood at 137 -- above the neutral mid-point of 100 and seven points higher than it was last September.

"The Anxiety Indicator is moving closer to the 150 mark, the `red zone' that to me would signal a full blown crisis of public confidence," said Daniel Yankelovich, chairman of Public Agenda.


"The new research provides striking evidence that Americans' anguish over Iraq is spilling over to other areas of foreign policy -- with serious potential effects on the policy options available to current and future leaders," the report added.

An overwhelming 84 percent of respondents said they worried about the way things were going for the US in world affairs, and 82 percent said the world was becoming more dangerous for the US and its people.

Almost three out of four said the country was not doing a good job as a world leader in creating a more peaceful and prosperous planet, while 68 percent said the rest of the world saw the US negatively.

And while six out of 10 said the US had a moral obligation to the Iraqis, seven out of 10 favored withdrawing US troops from the country.

"Overwhelmingly negative opinions on the efficacy of military options can't help but impact future decisions made by our country's leaders," the report said, singling out the case of Iran.

Military action

Only 8 percent favored military action against Iran, which has repeatedly defied the US over its nuclear program.

Some 59 percent of respondents said they did not trust the government to tell the truth on foreign affairs, up 10 points since September.

"Many recent polls have said that Americans are disillusioned with the Iraq war, but this research goes deeper," said Gideon Rose, Foreign Affairs' managing editor.

"We are seeing the public seriously inclined to limit America's foreign policy options because they no longer trust Washington's judgment," he said.

Faith in the government's ability to prevent a repeat of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks also fell, with only 36 percent saying there was a lot the government could do to ward off the eventuality of another major attack.

And while 82 percent said they were worried about the possibility of unfriendly nations becoming nuclear powers, 63 percent said it was unrealistic to expect the US government to be able to prevent proliferation.

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