The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Gallup Poll: Americans Back the GWOT

Andrew Jackson still lives: The American public’s foreign policy priorities look very much like something the former President would have recognized. In a recent Gallup poll, 88 percent of Americans ranked ”preventing future acts of international terrorism” as a “very important” foreign policy goal, narrowly beating out stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and supplying America’s energy needs. The bottom two by far were helping other countries develop economically and helping other countries to build democracy. Gallup boils it down:

The rank ordering of the nine issues tested in the poll indicates that Americans believe the U.S. should focus its foreign policy on matters that can or do affect the country directly—terrorism, nuclear weapons, energy, and favorable trade policies. Americans give lower priority to matters that involve the U.S. acting on behalf of other countries, including defending U.S. allies, working with international organizations to bring about world cooperation, promoting and defending human rights, and promoting economic development and democracy. These lower priority issues do not have an obvious benefit to the U.S., but they could certainly work to the country’s benefit in the long run.

With this in mind, it’s not surprising that drone strikes are more popular than the President and Congress combined. Despite the controversy in the media, the public at large sees drones as a weapon that can stop foreign terrorists in their tracks while minimizing risks to U.S. troops. And while the GWOT is no longer discussed as such in polite company, these results suggest that the American public remains concerned about Iran and the security of the Middle East.

One question for the future: As more people understand the new geopolitics of energy, how will Americans change their international priorities?

[Chart data courtesy of Gallup.]

Published on February 20, 2013 12:48 pm