The United Nations Foundation and its sister organization, the Better World Campaign, released today the results of a six-month public opinion research project indicating the attacks of 9/11 and the Iraq war have scrambled the traditional contours to which voters used to adhere on key questions of America’s role around the world. Once-reliable voting blocs have reorganized; old turns of phrase carry new meanings.
“An underlying shift is occurring in American attitudes regarding the international role and priorities of the United States. Voters across the party spectrum understand that America’s reputation has faltered, and believe this is a problem for the nation that needs attention and repair,” said Timothy E. Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation. “Voters also reject the idea of the United States ‘going it alone’ and strongly prefer that the United States work in partnership with other countries to solve the world’s key challenges.”
Key highlights of the research include:
• The overwhelming majority of American voters believe that America’s reputation has suffered in the world. 78% of all voters (and 80% of swing voters) believe the United States is less respected by other countries than it has been in the past.
• Voters are virtually unanimous (86% of all voters) in the belief that working with major allies, and through international organizations, is a wiser strategy for achieving U.S. international affairs goals.
• 73% of all voters are more likely to vote for a candidate for President who understands that “solutions to world problems require international cooperation, whether they are economic problems, environmental problems, or problems of peace and war – we cannot do it alone. International cooperation is a better way of solving some of the world’s key problems”.
• 70% of voters are more likely to vote for a candidate for President who agrees with the idea that it “is important for us to work more constructively with countries around the world to put a stop to growing anti-American feelings and distrust of the United States abroad. We need to restore trust in America through strong diplomatic efforts and cooperative partnerships with other nations around the world.”
Concern is also growing over America’s dependence upon foreign oil across the political spectrum. It now ranks just below terrorism as voters’ second highest international priority, and the issue is a top priority for Republicans, Democrats, and swing voters alike.
“Solving the world’s most difficult challenges – climate change and energy issues, nuclear proliferation, and terrorism – can only be accomplished if the United States and other nations work together,” Wirth said. “This research clearly demonstrates that the majority of Americans want to take a new direction in international affairs, one that advances our security by restoring America’s reputation, fosters partnerships with the rest of the world and tackles global challenges.”
The research also shows how changing American attitudes are realigning old assumptions about certain voting blocs: young people, disillusioned by the war in Iraq, are “new isolationists” while a key segment of GOP primary voters are increasingly open to the idea of international cooperation. Overall, a sharp generational difference has opened in the United States, with older Americans more inclined to support U.S. involvement in international affairs.
The research, undertaken by a bipartisan polling team led by Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies and Geoff Garin of Peter D. Hart Research Associates, is the most extensive on this subject to date, reflecting the results of nine focus groups in Alabama, California, Iowa, Maine and New Mexico and a national survey of 800 likely voters and an oversample with a total of 400 swing voters. The poll was conducted September 16, 18-23, 2007. The margin of error on a sample of 800 is + 3.46% and the margin of error for the oversample was + 4.9%.
About the UN Foundation
The UN Foundation, created in 1998 with entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner’s historic $1 billion gift to support UN causes and activities, builds and implements public-private partnerships that address the world’s most pressing problems. Its partnerships and campaigns have global reach, and cut across diverse issue areas, including: protecting biodiversity and promoting sustainable development; providing insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent the spread of malaria in Africa; and increasing access to technology for international humanitarian relief and public health workers. For more information about the United Nations Foundation, visit www.unfoundation.org.