Survey: As NATO Summit Looms, Majority of Americans Say Alliance is Essential

July 7, 2016

Ahead of Friday’s NATO Summit in Warsaw, a majority of Americans say NATO is still essential to U.S. security, including a majority of Republicans (57 percent) and those who say they are planning to vote for Donald Trump (53 percent). Further, according to the new public opinion survey data released Thursday by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a combined 75 percent of Americans support either maintaining or increasing the U.S. commitment to NATO.

“NATO is more important today than at any previous time in the past 25 years,” said Ivo H. Daalder, Council president and former U.S. ambassador to NATO. “It is therefore gratifying to see that a large majority of the American people still understand the imperative for a strong, cohesive transatlantic alliance in today’s global environment.”

Americans View NATO as Essential to U.S. Security

  • Support for the 67-year old alliance has increased since 2002, the last time the Chicago Council Survey measured public opinion about it. More Americans today (65 percent) than in 2002 (57 percent) say that NATO is still essential to U.S. security, driven by increasing support among self-described Democrats (views among Republicans and Independents remained stable over the same period).

Americans Support Maintaining U.S. Commitment to NATO

  • Overall, a majority of Americans favor maintaining the U.S. commitment to NATO (63 percent), with an additional one in ten who favor increasing the U.S. commitment (12 percent).
  • One in seven (14 percent) say they favor decreasing the U.S. commitment to NATO, and even fewer (7 percent) favor withdrawing entirely.
  • Democrats are more likely than Republicans to favor increasing or maintaining the U.S. commitment to NATO (86 percent versus 69 percent), as has been the case since 1998. Before then, Republicans were more likely than Democrats to favor increasing or maintaining the U.S. commitment to NATO.
  • That partisan difference also carries over to supporters of the two parties’ presumptive nominees, as Clinton supporters (84 percent) are more likely than Trump supporters (66 percent) to favor increasing or maintaining the U.S. commitment to NATO.

View the full survey brief online here. Additional survey information from the Chicago Council Survey of American attitudes on foreign policy will be released in the coming months, with the full report to be published in October.

Recent analysis by Ambassador Daalder about the upcoming NATO summit may be found in the Financial Times, Defense One and at Carnegie Europe.

The analysis in this report is based on data from the 2016 Chicago Council Survey of the American public on foreign policy. The 2016 Chicago Council Survey was conducted by GfK Custom Research using their large-scale, nationwide online research panel between June 10-27, 2016 among a national sample of 2,061 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error ranges ±2.2 to ±3.5 percentage points, depending on the specific question, with higher margins of error for partisan subgroups.

The 2016 Chicago Council Survey is made possible by the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Korea Foundation and the personal support of Lester Crown and the Crown family.