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Americans back President Biden in believing that US global influence depends on getting our own house in order. But they are far more supportive of trade and globalization than the administration and its critics seem to believe. 

President Biden’s “Foreign Policy for the Middle Class” strategy focuses U.S. global engagement on delivering concrete results for everyday Americans while addressing challenges at home. The 2021 Chicago Council Survey finds Americans agree that focusing on domestic issues will improve U.S. global standing and want to take aggressive steps to compete with China. Counter to the prevailing “Foreign Policy for the Middle Class” narrative, however, majorities say globalization is mostly good for the U.S., consider international trade to be beneficial and say maintaining U.S. military superiority is important.   

Key Data

Domestic-Global Connection  

  • The public believes wealthy (50%) and large businesses (59%) benefit a great deal from U.S. foreign policy, rather than the American middle class (11%).   
  • Americans say making concrete progress at home—by improving education (73%), strengthening democracy (70%) and maintaining U.S. economic power (66%)—helps the U.S. to enhance its global influence.    

Competition with China   

  • There is widespread support for trade restrictions against China (62%) and for government funding of research and development of emerging technologies to give U.S. companies an edge over foreign businesses (79%).   
  • For the first time in Council polling, fewer than half of Americans (46%) say the U.S. is stronger than China in terms of military power.  

Support  for  Globalization and Trade   

  • A record number of Americans (68%) now say globalization is mostly good for the U.S., and nearly three-quarters, or more, consider international trade to be beneficial.   
  • Nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) say it is better for the U.S. to play an active part in world affairs than to stay out of world affairs (35%).   

Maintaining Military Strength   

  • While a broad majority of Americans supported the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, 57 percent say maintaining U.S. military superiority is a very important factor to US global influence.  
  • Majorities want to either maintain or increase the U.S. military presence in Asia-Pacific (79%), Africa (73%), Latin America (73%), Europe (72%) and the Middle East (68%).   

About the Chicago Council Survey

The 2021 Chicago Council Survey was conducted between July 7 to 26 among a weighted national sample of 2,086 adults. For full details, including the survey methodology, please read the full survey report.   

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.  

About the Chicago Council on Global Affairs

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is an independent, non-partisan organization that provides insight and information on critical global issues, advances policy solutions and fosters dialogue about what is happening in the world and why it matters. The Council believes that an informed and engaged public helps to ensure effective U.S. engagement with the world.  

Media Contact:

Taylor Barton

Assistant Director of Communications
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