Survey: Americans Steadfast in Support for Global Engagement, Divided on Critical Threats

September 9, 2019
mmeyer

Contrary to Washington rhetoric, most Americans across political parties are united in support of U.S. global engagement, according to findings of the 2019 Chicago Council Survey of American public opinion and U.S. foreign policy released today. Most do not support retreating from the world, abdication of U.S. global leadership or abandoning alliances including NATO. Americans do, however, divide sharply along partisan lines on immigration, climate change and China.

“Our survey shows Americans continue to believe US global engagement and leadership, including the long-term benefit to American security of international trade, organizations such as NATO and strong allies who share our democratic values,” said Ambassador Ivo H. Daalder. “Presidential candidates would do well to note Americans continue to support these essential pillars of U.S. foreign policy.”

The 2019 survey, “Rejecting Retreat,” is the latest in a series of annual surveys measuring U.S. public opinion on foreign policy. It features detailed trend-line data dating back to 1974 and partisan breakdowns on a range of issues, including international alliances, trade, war and diplomacy.

Highlights from the report are included below. For more findings, download the full report here

Active U.S. Role in Global Affairs

  • Seven in 10 Americans say it would be best for the future of the country to the U.S. should take an active part in world affairs, while three in 10 say the United States should stay out.
  • Solid majorities of self-described Democrats, Independents, and Republicans all support an active role in the world, with among the highest percentages recorded in the history of the Chicago Council Survey.


Sky High Support for Trade

  • More Americans than ever before in Council polling endorse the benefits of international trade for the U.S. economy and American companies.
  • Larger majorities than in 2017 see trade deals as benefiting both the United States and other countries, including majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans.


Sharp Partisan Divides on Three Key Issues:

Immigration

  • Views on Immigration highlight one of the largest partisan gaps in our Survey’s history.
  • Of all 14 potential threats posed, Democrats are least likely to rate immigration as a critical threat. In contrast, Republicans consider large numbers of immigrants and refugees coming into the United States as the most critical threat the U.S. faces.


Climate Change

  • For the first time since the question was introduced in 2008, a majority of Americans consider climate change a critical threat.
  • Concern has reached majority levels among Democrats and Independents but remains much lower among Republicans.


China

  • While climate change and immigration are longstanding disagreements between Republicans and Democrats, polling has only recently revealed a growing partisan divide on the threat of China.
  • Less than half of Americans say China’s development as a world power represents a critical threat, but twelve percent more Republicans than last year have this view.


Military Clout for Deterrence, not Intervention

  • Solid majorities of Americans say preserving U.S. military alliances with other countries, maintaining U.S. military superiority, and stationing U.S. troops in allied countries contribute to U.S. safety.
  • Fewer say the same about military interventions, suggesting that Americans favor using U.S. military clout to deter aggressive actions by other countries rather than to invade or occupy them.


For full findings, graphics and methodology, view or download the full report here.

See also our previous reports from the 2019 Chicago Council Survey:


Methodology

This report is based on the results of a survey commissioned by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. The 2019 Chicago Council Survey, a project of the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy, is the latest effort in a series of wide-ranging surveys on American attitudes toward US foreign policy. The 2019 Chicago Council Survey is made possible by the generous support of the Crown family and the Korea Foundation.

The survey was conducted from June 7 to 20, 2019, among a representative national sample of 2,059 adults. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is ±2.3, including a design effect of 1.1607. The margin of error is higher for partisan subgroups or for partial-sample items.

About the Chicago Council Survey

The Chicago Council Survey, conducted every four years since 1974, biennially since 2002, and annually since 2014, is a trusted and widely cited source of longitudinal data on American public opinion about a broad range of U.S. foreign policy and international issues. Since its inception, the survey has captured the sense of particular eras—post-Vietnam, post-Cold War, post-9/11—and identified critical shifts in American public thinking. With its combination of time series and comprehensive coverage, the Chicago Council Survey is a valuable resource to policymakers, academics, media and the general public.