Skip to main content

2014 Chicago Council Survey

RESEARCH Public Opinion Survey by Dina Smeltz , Ivo H. Daalder and Craig Kafura
2014 Chicago Council Survey report cover

The 2014 Chicago Council Survey of American public opinion and US foreign policy shows public support for an “Active” Role in world affairs.

Foreign Policy in the Age of Retrenchment

Executive Summary 

Among much of the political elite today, a specter is haunting America—the specter of isolationism. Since the last Chicago Council Survey in 2012, many policymakers, politicians, and pundits have come to question the continued willingness of Americans to engage in world affairs. As global troubles brew in Gaza, Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine, some claim that the public is turning inward and resistant to any sort of US military intervention. And they have used public opinion polling to argue their points. 

Key Findings

  • Public continues to support an active role for the United States in world affairs. 
  • Public aversion to the use of force is long-standing. 
  • Americans will support force if they sense a direct threat. 
  • Majorities support alliances, treaties, and keeping a military edge.          
  • Globalization receives the highest endorsement ever; majorities support new trade agreements. 
  • Americans continue to support diplomacy and sanctions. 
  • Americans prefer a diplomacy-first strategy before—if at all—resorting to force. 
  • Americans draw distinctions between spying on friends and foes. 
  • More Republicans than Democrats now support “staying out” of world affairs. 

Conclusion 

A review of Chicago Council Surveys conducted over the past 40 years—covering Vietnam, the Cold War, the 9/11 attacks, the rise of China, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the 2008 financial collapse—shows that American attitudes on foreign engagement have been remarkably stable. Throughout, Americans have expressed a preference for a foreign policy that relies on multiple means of engagement, avoiding military entanglements overseas, while ensuring we remain strong militarily and economically. That was true 40 years ago. It is equally true today. 

Methodology

Data was collected between May 6 to May 29, 2014 among a national sample of 2,108 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error is ± 2.1 percentage points. The full dataset from this year’s study will be made available on the website in January 2015.

Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy logo
Crown Center Content This content is produced by the Lester Crown Center, which aims to shape debates and inform decisions on important US foreign policy and national security issues.
About the Authors
Senior Fellow, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy
Headshot for Dina Smeltz
Dina Smeltz, a polling expert, has more than 25 years experience designing and fielding international social and political surveys. Prior to joining the Council to lead its annual survey of American attitudes on US foreign policy, she served in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the US State Department's Office of Research from 1992 to 2001.
Headshot for Dina Smeltz
President, Chicago Council on Global Affairs
Headshot of Ivo H. Daalder
Ivo H. Daalder served as the US ambassador to NATO from 2009 to 2013 prior to becoming president of the Council. Previously, he was a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution and served as director for European affairs on President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council. He is the author or editor of ten books.
Headshot of Ivo H. Daalder
Assistant Director, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy
Council expert Craig Kafura
Craig Kafura is the assistant director for public opinion and foreign policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a Security Fellow with the Truman National Security Project, and a Pacific Forum Young Leader. At the Council, he coordinates work on public opinion and foreign policy and is a regular contributor to the public opinion and foreign policy blog Running Numbers.
Council expert Craig Kafura