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American Global View 2010 and Iran - The Chicago Council on Global Affairs

global-view-2010-iThe American people want to play an active part in world affairs but their internationalism is increasingly constrained by economic troubles at home and diminished influence overseas, according to The Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ 2010 survey of public opinion on U.S. foreign policy .

The 2010 survey polled more than 2,500 Americans on over one hundred questions on various aspects of U.S. foreign policy, including terrorism, nuclear proliferation, China’s rise, the Afghanistan War, and attitudes toward other countries.

Key specific findings include:

* Nine out of ten Americans today think it is more important for the future of the United States to fix pressing problems at home than to address challenges to the United States from abroad. There is a decline in support for U.S. military bases in Japan (-8%), Germany (-7%), Iraq (-7%), Turkey (-7%), and Afghanistan (-5%) compared to 2008.

* Only one-quarter of Americans think the United States plays a more important and powerful role as a world leader today compared to ten years ago, a sharp drop from 2002.

* More than two-thirds of Americans think that as rising countries like Turkey and Brazil become more independent from the United States in the conduct of their foreign policy, it is mostly good because they will be less reliant on the United States.

* There has been a striking overall drop in the percentages of Americans who say that various countries are “very important” to the United States, with thirteen of the fourteen countries asked about in both 2008 and 2010 showing declines. The only country that did not decline in perceived importance is China.

* Americans see few promising policy choices toward Iran if it continues with its nuclear weapons program. A narrow plurality (49% to 45%) believe that the United States cannot contain a nuclear Iran as it contained the Soviet Union. Only 18% say the United States should carry out a military strike against Iran’s nuclear energy facilities under present conditions. Overwhelming majorities believe that a military strike would result in terrorist attacks in the United States and retaliatory strikes against U.S. targets in the Middle East; even so, if all other measures fail to stop Iran’s nuclear program, Americans are almost evenly split (47% in favor and 49% opposed) on whether the U.S. should launch a military strike.

* A majority of Americans think that if Israel were to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, Iran were to retaliate against Israel, and the two were to go to war, the United States should not bring its military forces into the war on the side of Israel and against Iran.

* Only 51% believe that because most Muslims are like people everywhere, we can find common ground and violent conflict between the civilizations is not inevitable. 45% say that because Muslim religious, social, and political traditions are incompatible with Western ways, violent conflict between the two civilizations is inevitable—up 18 points since 2002.

* In a dramatic reversal from 2006, 67% of Americans now understand that China loans more money to the United States than the United States loans to China. In 2006 when the question was last posed, this percentage was only 24%. 51% of Americans consider this debt to be a critical national security threat. When asked whether U.S. relations with eight other countries and the EU are improving, worsening, or neutral, Americans perceived relations to be on the neutral to good side. The only country with which a sub¬stantial number of Americans perceive relations as “worsening” is Mexico (47%).


The Lessening of U.S. Influence



Constraints on U.S. Power Abroad



Tough Economic Times at Home



Sustained Support for International Engagement Overall



Acceptance of Less Dominance



Decline in the Perceived Importance of Other Countries



Opportunities for Reducing Commitments



Staying on the Sideline of Conflicts That Are Not Seen As Directly Threatening to the United States



Trust in Government and Who Influences Foreign Policy



Prioritizing Demands at Home






Energy Supply



International Security and Selective Engagement



Support for Actions against Top Threats



International Terrorism


Nuclear Proliferation









Energy Dependence



The Middle East and Nearby Muslim Countries



Israel and Palestinian



Source: The Chicago Council on Global Affairs

For further comment contact, Tom Wright, Executive Director of Studies, on 617-447-8302 or

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, founded in 1922 as The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, is a leading independent, nonpartisan organization committed to influencing the discourse on global issues through contributions to opinion and policy formation, leadership dialogue, and public learning.

The Chicago Council has been conducting nationwide public opinion surveys on American views on foreign policy since 1974.