October 18, 2016 | By Dina Smeltz

Top Five Surprising Findings on Americans’ Views on the US Role in the World

1. Partisan differences on immigration are at a historic high point. Since 1998, when the Chicago Council on Global Affairs first asked Americans to rate whether large numbers of immigrants and refugees coming into the United States is a critical, important but not critical, or not an important threat to the country, a majority of Republicans have consistently said it is a critical threat. This year’s number, 67 percent, is at an all-time high. By contrast, since 2002, Democrats’ concern about immigration has steadily declined from 62 percent to just 27 percent today saying it is a critical threat. 

2. Americans have grown more positive in views of Mexican immigrants. Although Donald Trump has turned up the volume on stereotyping Mexican immigrants, Americans overall -- and across party lines -- have grown more positive toward immigrants from Mexico since 2013, the last time the question was asked. Then, 55 percent reported favorable views of Mexican immigrants living in the United States -- a view that rose to 60 percent in 2016. Looking at partisan differences, three quarters of Democrats (74 percent, up from 64 percent in 2013), and nearly half of Republicans (46 percent, up from 38 percent in 2013) say they view positively Mexican immigrants living in the United States.  

3. Americans still support globalization. You wouldn’t know it from all the trade-bashing in the debates thus far but overall support for globalization among the American public remains strong: Two in three Americans say globalization is mostly good for the United States, one of the highest levels ever reported in the Chicago Council Survey. That support is cross-partisan, too, with three in four Democrats (74 percent), and six in ten Republicans (59 percent) and Independents (61 percent) saying that globalization is mostly good.

4. Majority of Americans support the TPP. While the Transpacific Partnership has been held up to signify the negative aspects of free trade, a majority of the public overall supports the TPP (60 percent). This includes Democrats (70 percent), Republicans (58 percent), and Independents (52 percent). Even half of the core supporters of Donald Trump (49 percent, meaning those who wanted him to win the nomination against other primary candidates) and Bernie Sanders (56 percent) favor the TPP.

5. Six in ten support the Iran nuclear agreement. In the wake of the signing of the nuclear deal with Iran, various polls had shown a large drop in the percentages of Americans supporting the deal. But the Chicago Council Survey shows that a majority of Americans overall (60 percent) think the United States should participate in “the agreement that lifts some international economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for strict limits on its nuclear program for at least the next decade.” This includes 74 percent of Democrats, 57 percent of Independents, and half of Republicans.

This data comes from the annual Chicago Council Survey of Americans’ views on foreign policy, “America in the Age of Uncertainty.”

About

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion. 

The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.

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