NEW POLL: Young Americans Favor an “America First, But Not Alone” Approach to U.S. Foreign Policy

In advance of President Trump’s second appearance before the United Nations General Assembly, poll finds that Millennials and Generation Z favor international cooperation and support the UN

Washington, D.C.

September 20, 2018


Megan Rabbitt

With President Trump and leaders from 192 other countries about to convene in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly, a new poll finds that young Americans – Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike –  favor an “America first, but not alone” approach to U.S. foreign policy over simply putting “America First.”

The poll also found that these generations rejected “isolationism” and “America going it alone.” They have more favorable views of a president who “works to improve America’s relations with other countries around the world” rather than one who “focuses much more on issues in the U.S., rather than on global or international issues.” 

“Young Americans are informed, fired up, and keen on continued U.S. leadership on the world stage,” said Kathy Calvin, President of the UN Foundation. “As leaders gather at the UN General Assembly, this is a reminder that young Americans want the U.S. to step forward, not step back in the world.”

The poll findings were clear that these generations can put partisan politics aside to come together in support of the United Nations. 

When asked whether the UN is supportive of Americas interests around the world, 63% of young Americans, including 59% of Republicans, 53% of Independents and 70% of Democrats, agree that it is. 71% believe the U.S. should continue to belong to the UN.  

Millennials and Generation Z have a 55% favorable view of the UN, which is 19 percentage points higher than the U.S. Congress and 16 percentage points higher than NATO. Even among those who voted in the 2016 election, 53% of Trump voters and 60% of Clinton voters have a favorable opinion of the UN. 

“Knowing that the largest voting bloc in America is firmly committed to continued U.S. leadership at the UN can only bolster Ambassador Haley’s work in New York,” said Peter Yeo, President of the Better World Campaign.  “Young Americans are disinclined to support any moves to pull back from tackling problems around the world or disengaging from international organizations like the UN.” 

Roughly two-thirds (65%) of young Americans confirmed that they follow international affairs closely. The top international issues they want the U.S. to act on are the environment, human rights, and poverty. When asked about the Global Goals, they overwhelmingly agreed the UN and its agencies would do the most to ensure countries around the world achieve the Global Goals For Sustainable Development, like ending poverty and hunger and defending human rights for all.  

The poll also found that young people are ready to put in the work to make this world better for all. Majorities (58%) said that it is very important to them to personally help address the problems of people living in other countries. Furthermore, 92 percent of them agreed that they would be willing to act in some capacity on behalf of the most pressing issues facing the world today. 

The national online survey among 1,501 adults and registered voters ages 17-35 was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research Associates on behalf of the United Nations Foundation and the Better World Campaign. 

All respondents who completed the survey ages 18+ are registered voters.  The survey was conducted August 2-10, 2018.  The confidence interval for a sample size of N=1,501 is +2.88%. 

Click here for the full results. 

Media Contact:

Erika Howard | | 202-864-5156

About the United Nations Foundation

The United Nations Foundation builds public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and broadens support for the United Nations through advocacy and public outreach. Through innovative campaigns and initiatives, the Foundation connects people, ideas, and resources to help the UN solve global problems. The Foundation was created in 1998 as a U.S. public charity by entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner and now is supported by philanthropic, corporate, government, and individual donors. Learn more at:

About the Better World Campaign

The Better World Campaign works to foster a strong relationship between the U.S. and the UN to promote core American interests and build a more secure, prosperous, and healthy world. The Better World Campaign engages policymakers, the media, and the American public alike to increase awareness of the critical role played by the UN in world affairs and the importance of constructive U.S.-UN relations. Learn more at: