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Poll: Americans Grow Less Enthusiastic about Active U.S. Engagement Abroad

Public opinion polls taken Sept. 7-18 by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs show that Americans are increasingly less excited about the U.S. playing an active role abroad.

CHICAGO, IL, Oct. 19, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

For the first time in nearly 50 years of Council polling, a majority of Republicans think the United States should stay out of world affairs, according to the 2023 Chicago Council Survey, conducted Sept. 7 to 18, 2023.  

The survey finds evidence that U.S. involvement in the war between Russia and Ukraine has played a role in American attitudes on foreign policy. Public support has dampened for defending U.S. allies and maintaining U.S. military bases abroad and continuing financial and military assistance to Kyiv. Republican leadership’s embrace of “America-First” foreign policy also seems to have influenced GOP supporters’ ideas of how active the United States should be on the global stage. 

KEY DATA:  

  • For the first time in the history of Chicago Council polling conducted since 1974, a narrow majority of Republicans (53%) say the United States should stay out of world affairs rather than taking an active part (47%). 
  • About six in 10 Americans think the United States should play an active role in world affairs (57%, 42% stay out of world affairs). This reading reflects a steady decline since 2018 (when 70% favored an active role) and is among the lowest levels recorded since 1974.  
  • At the same time, Americans continue to say that the benefits of maintaining the U.S. role in the world (58%) are greater than the costs (41%), with majorities across partisan groups agreeing. 
  • Majorities of six in 10 or more say it is most important for the United States to be a leader in economic (68%), human rights (65%), scientific and technological progress (62%), and military strength (60%). 

The survey spanned multiple foreign policy areas, producing other relevant findings: 
  
Democrats Favored Restrictions in U.S. Military Aid; Republicans Did Not 
When asked in September whether the United States should condition its military aid to prevent Israel from using that assistance in military operations against the Palestinians, a majority of Republicans opposed those restrictions (55%). They were, however, more likely to support restrictions in the 2023 survey than they were two years ago (42%, up from 32% in 2021). Independents tended to support restrictions on military aid (51%) as did six in 10 Democrats (62%), consistent with survey results in 2021. A majority (57%, the highest percentage yet recorded) did say U.S. leaders should be willing to meet and talk with leaders of Hamas. 

American Public Support for Assistance to Ukraine Has Waned, but Still Considerable  
Majorities of Americans continue to support providing economic assistance (61%) and sending additional arms and military supplies to the Ukrainian government (63%), down slightly from a year ago. About half of Republicans agree. 

Majorities Support U.S. Bases in Key Allied Nations, but at Lower Levels 
A majority of Americans continue to support U.S. bases in Germany (61%), Poland (54%), and in NATO allies like Latvia, Lithuania, or Estonia (53%). Yet support has declined across all party lines from 2022 for all three: six points for Poland, down seven points for Germany, and down 12 for the NATO Baltic nations.   

Most Americans See Value in International Trade   
A majority of Americans continue to see positives in international trade not only in their daily lives but for the United States as a whole. Three-quarters (74%) say that international trade is good for the U.S. economy, including 64 percent of Republicans, 83 percent of Democrats, and 73 percent of Independents.   
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About the Chicago Council on Global Affairs    
A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, the Council was founded in 1922 and is dedicated to increasing knowledge and engagement in global affairs. Our in-depth analysis and expert-led research influence policy conversations and inform the insights we share with our growing community. Through accessible content and open dialogue of diverse, fact-based perspectives, we empower more people to help shape our global future. Learn more at globalaffairs.org.    

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Taylor Barton
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs 
tbarton@globalaffairs.org