Monday, March 31, 2014

America and the World

An article in the New York Times a few days ago said "a December Pew poll revealed the lowest level of public support for an active American foreign policy since 1964."  It didn't give an exact citation, but it looks like this is the source.  The exact item is agreement or disagreement with the following:   "The U.S. should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own." The summary is a little misleading:  it should say that he question was first asked in 1964 and 2013 was the highest level of agreement ever found (1964 was the lowest).  

 In searching for these data I came across another question on the same general issue that has been asked as far back as 1946, originally by Gallup and later by several other organizations: "Do you think it would be best for the future of this country if we take an active part in world affairs, or if we stay out of world affairs?" Answers are summarized in the following figure:

The basic pattern seems to be that support for an active role was higher in the 1950s and 1960s and has been at a lower level since then.  It has bounced back a few times:  in 1991, when the Soviet Union was starting to break up, and for several years after 9/11.  The Pew question suggests more of a real trend away from support for international involvement in the last 10 year or so--this question has ups and downs without much pattern.  It seems to me that the questions are asking pretty much the same thing, but maybe people interpret them differently.  Or maybe it's related to the exact times that each question was asked.  

[Note:  data from iPOLL, Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

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