US citizens call for better global ties
By Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington
The Financial Times
September 23 2008
A big majority of Americans think the US should concentrate on repairing its world image to help restore its global influence, according to survey results just published.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs survey found that 83 per cent of respondents thought that improving their country's world standing should be a "very important" foreign policy goal.
This was the highest priority, ranking above the 80 per cent who saw protecting US jobs as very important.
The survey comes as John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, and Barack Obama, his Democratic opponent, prepare to square up on Friday in the first presidential debate. The poll, conducted in July, suggests that most Americans think the US should talk to hostile states – a view more closely aligned with Mr Obama.
"It is not difficult to see why both candidates are putting so much emphasis on the theme of 'change'," said Steven Kull, director of the International Policy Attitudes programme at the University of Maryland.
"They are trying to speak to the same feelings that came through in this poll. Americans want a significant retooling of America's relations with the world."
Seventy per cent expressed support for talking to Cuba and 65 per cent for dealing with Iran. Slim majorities backed talks with the militant Shia group Hizbollah and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.
Only 17 per cent thought that helping to bring democracy to other nations was a "very important" goal. Twenty-four per cent saw a similar importance in protecting weaker states from outside aggression.
"Americans understand the message that is coming from the rest of the world that the US is too unilateralist," added Mr Kull.
Pakistan has complained about US military action inside its borders. But 68 per cent of respondents thought the US should target terrorists operating in Pakistan, with or without Islamabad's approval.
On the issue of Iraq, Mr Obama wants to pull out US combat troops within 16 months, while Mr McCain has resisted a timetable.
The survey found that 24 per cent backed immediate withdrawal, while 43 per cent wanted troops out within two years. But there was a significant difference depending on political affiliation: 58 per cent of Republicans favoured an open commitment, as opposed to only 9 per cent of Democrats.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008
© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008.