By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.
Michigan Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg’s famous axiom that partisan politics stops at the water’s edge has always been more an expression of hope than a description of reality. Since he uttered his famous dictum in the 1940s, Americans have disagreed along ideological lines about a range of international issues: the Korean War, the Vietnam War, trade with Japan, the Iraq War, relations with China and climate change. With national debates looming next year over Iran, Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, trade and China, continued partisan discord is probably unavoidable. What may be different this time is the shear depth of that partisan divide.
Americans differ in their judgment of the trajectory of the United States on the world stage. Nearly three-quarters of Republicans and 86 percent of those who agree with the Tea Party (among Republicans and Independents who lean toward the Republican Party) say the United States plays a less important and powerful role as a world leader today compared to 10 years ago. Just 33 percent of Democrats agree, according to a new public opinion survey, “America’s Place in the World,” undertaken by the Pew Research Center in conjunction with the Council on Foreign Relations.
And this partisan view of an America in decline reflects an even harsher partisan assessment of President Obama’s handling of U.S. foreign policy. Roughly eight-in-ten of Republicans and 93 percent of Tea Party adherents disapprove of Obama’s handling of the nation’s foreign policy. Only 24 percent of Democrats disapprove.
Such ideological differences inhibit bipartisanship on a range of international challenges. In the Pew Research survey, the difference in GOP and Democratic approval of Obama’s handling of these issues averages 41 percentage points.
Republicans and Tea Party sympathizers are more likely than Democrats to cite Iran as the greatest danger to the United States, while just 17 percent of the GOP and 6 percent of Tea Partyites agree with President Obama’s handling of Iran, compared with 62 percent of Democrats.
In contrast, three-quarters of Democrats approve of the way the president has dealt with international terrorism, while only a third of Republicans and 17 percent of Tea Party sympathizers agree.
Such differences extend to the issue of climate change, with 59 percent of the members of the president’s party supporting his handling of this contentious issue, compared with just 18 percent of Republicans and 4 percent of those who align with the Tea Party sharing that support.
A conference brokered by the United States to try to end the Syrian civil war begins in January in Geneva. But on the eve of that event there is no bipartisan support for Obama’s Syria policy. Just 13 percent of Republicans and half that percentage of Tea Party sympathizers back the White House’s handling of the issue, compared with roughly half of Democrats.
Similarly, the United States faces an increasingly contentious relationship with China that is strongly divided along partisan lines. American antipathy toward China is on the rise, underscored by the fact that two-thirds of the GOP have an unfavorable view of China, as do three-quarters of Tea party supporters. And while about half of Democrats* approve of the president’s handling of China policy, only 13 percent of Republicans and 7 percent of Tea Party adherents do.
Notably, the public generally agrees on the preferable U.S. posture toward the rest of the world: they want a more inward looking America. They say, without significant partisan difference, that the United States should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own. And they agree that President Obama should focus on domestic policy not foreign policy.
But once the public focuses on discreet international issues, strong partisanship emerges. Vandenberg’s hope is far from Obama’s reality.
*The article originally stated that half of Americans approve of the president’s handling of China policy, but has been corrected to note that this number actually applies to the share of Democrats.
The fact that we Americans are divided on our foreign policies should come as a surprise to no one. There are the ignorant, the clueless and the right-wing haters of those who are different from us. These are the people who strongly support our current policies abroad and then there are more enlightened people like us who can tell right from wrong and detest what we're doing in the Middle East!
The US flexes its military muscle throughout the world. The 9/11 attacks had a momentous impact as the country continued to re-define its role as the world's only superpower. Increasingly unconventional forces are probably its most challenging adversaries.
US foreign policy has often mixed the idealism of its "mission" to spread democracy with the pursuit of national self-interest. While the GOP and the Tea Party are known for chauvinism, the Democrats are often at odds with their Republican counterparts.
Given America's leading role on the international stage, its foreign policy aims and actions remain the subject of heated debate at home and abroad.
In fact j. von hettlingen, U.S. interference in other countries is creating 75% of the world's problems. In other words, we're creating more problems than we're solving!
The US was attacked on 9/11. You are not an honest person
It must be hard to solve somebody else's problems.
I detested September 11, 2001, and my former college boyfriend being turned into charcoal in the World Trade Center while working at his desk as a bond trader.
Like many young servicemen and servicewomen from Wisconsin and from all states and from numerous countries, I defended my leaders’ chosen causes when I volunteered to enter the military in 1969. I then volunteered in basic training to go to Vietnam.
Some of my fondest memories of my military service are my many meetings with “my minister” before and after I applied for an Honorable Discharge as a Conscientious Objector in 1971.
He was a “bird colonel” who commanded respect, but was also a very kind, soft-spoken, gentle man.
He helped me clarify my changing morality.
I am still very grateful for his guidance.
And I will always honor all veterans, but I guess most personally the ONE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED AND FORTY FOUR Wisconsin veterans who sacrificed their lives during our Vietnam War.
Our United States citizens have always been told, “there are no diplomatic alternative left,” so our finest sons and daughters must again go to war as bravely as we did and our ancestors did.
And our U.S. leaders have always pledged that our finest sons and daughters bravely sacrificed their lives in foreign nations for something..."for our further freedom and democracy at home."
And our U.S. leaders and citizens still try to coerce more of our finest youths to defend more of their chosen causes and to attack more of their chosen foes.
And the U.S. has allocated $673 billion in "defense" spending for 2013.
And our majority of citizens only parrot to others that U.S. global military strength and expansionism and weapons productions and weapons sales will make us safer when instead the opposite is surely true.
And even our most patriotic and brave soldiers will not be able to protect us from our foreign blunders.
And even our most patriotic and brave soldiers will not be able to protect us from those who fear U.S. global military expansionism and from those who covet our sold weapons of mass destruction and from those who despise the arrogance of U.S. actions and its failed foreign policies.
And the U.S. is the supreme military and economic power behind a worldwide military-industrial complex.
And it is no surprise that our struggling U.S. and world economies, temporarily supported by weapons productions and sales, will continue to only flounder on by if...only if our "Masters of War" can fuel even more wars…even more foreign wars fueled by our failed foreign policies and with our sold weapons of mass destruction.
And when “world peace’ is somehow discovered and is somehow forced upon even the U.S., the worldwide military-industrial complex, led by the U.S., will collapse.
And this collapse will create a global economic depression and social upheaval that will put the “Great Depression” to shame.
Because this will be the price all world citizens will have to initially pay as we finally try to make right our past moral wrongs.
It remains a common individual and social tragedy when Christians, Jews or Moslems express beliefs in God, then are coerced or inducted to wound, kill or die for their countries or causes. It is especially tragic when any world citizen who feels love, and who shares love with others, enters the military and goes to war. It is tragic when our finest youths still agree to kill other equally perfect human beings.
Most people have been indoctrinated since birth by government, church, family and friends that “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” except in wars. It often appears that our morality still changes to suit the needs and desires of the moment.
The majority of our world citizens and even, amazingly and ironically, our highest religious leaders, continue to believe that sending our finest youths to fight and kill is a necessary evil in our world already gone awry.
Past and continuing world militarism provides the fear and self-justification that malleable citizens need in order for them to further endorse their leaders' expanding and modernizing military might. The expanding and escalating cycle thus feeds itself and prospers, like a self-perpetuating social and moral virus allowed to further drain our global health and wealth.
The majority of our world citizens, led by leaders of nations, movements and religions, continue to forget that this social and moral virus is reversible, is curable and is not yet terminal.
American foreign policy (lie any foreign policy requiring long terms planning) does not last more than 4 years or at most 8 years. Any foreign leaders ever made a mistake to "put all the eggs in the American basket" should get their suitcases ready to run out of their countries as political refugees.
The moral of the story is: don't trust the Americans. Example: The first American betrayal occurred during the French Revolution. The Revolutionaries who helped the American Revolution were betrayed in 1789 by the so-called "revolutionaries"in Washington.
So you support France's 1789 plan of pulling thousands of French citizens out of their homes and chopping their heads off in public squares just because they were suspected of not agreeing with the revolutionary politics.
Exactly. Another good example is South VN, the only loser in Viet Nam war.
So says the same man who called Bush evil for attacking two countries connected with the 911 attack on America ....
While his same warlord president has invaded more countries than any president since FDR .... and Obama's secret wars may beat FDR's WW2 ....
By now, everyone knows Iraq (Saddam) was not connected to 9/11 in anyway. So-called Obama's secret war was not a secret. He has openly promoted the use of special force for eliminating terrorists it during 2008 campaign. It's much more cost effective and reduce, if not eliminate, collateral damages. You dont need to kill an ant with a battalion of tanks and air force.
Thank you for your comments!
Yes, I agree – Saddam was attacked because the progressives were tired of Saddam killing his people. Not for 9/11, or WMD.
Obama's wars are not public. That is why soldiers sometimes get nervous when I ask them the correct questions ....
Soldiers are being deployed to countries we are not reporting. Just as Obama stepped up spying upon Americans under the NSA, he has targeted many more wars than his predecessor (s). Even more than Clinton ....
We are at war from Mali to the Philippines. Our soldiers face the enemy, and Chinese corporations get rich ....
I cannot blame the Chinese government, they are doing what is best for their businesses.
My government, on the other hand, is doing what is best for the Chinese and the worst for America .....
The contents will become very thin
Three-fourths of this, 86% of that–do you realize how many Americans don't understand the difference in how many opinions out of one hundred that would represent?
What could they possibly understand about foreign policy?
Ask 86% of Americans to find Rhodesia on a map.
Um, Joey, Rhodesia is no longer on the world map – it's Zimbabwe.
Um, Conner Clark, that was part of the point I was making.
Anybody who has read my previous posts knows that I don't make mistakes like the one you hoped that I had made.
I would bet Joey can't find Rhodesia on a map.
..... And what would be the FUNCTIONAL reason why some busy car mechanic or surgical technician in, say, Ohio needs to know about Rhodesia/Zimbabwe? ( I'm not speaking here about those of us who graduated from college, are now Extra Swell, know Lotsa Stuff about Lotsa Places, and can somewhat speak a second language that we'll never use.)
The functional reason for an Ohio car mechanic to know about other nations would be in forming opinions of our foreign policy, which is the topic of this article.
As for using a second language, I have to work in several foreign languages every day.
Why would any educated person need to know where any particular country is? Well, if you don't know where all the countries are located, you cannot consider yourself thoroughly educated. One of the problems with Americans today – they don't think knowledge is a good thing.
Student time might be more FUNCTIONALLY spent by being required to study Statistics 101 and Propaganda 101 (so they can learn to be critical thinkers and evaluators of the non-rational non-factual Political Opinions / Commercials / News being thrown at them on an hourly basis.) Learning time has practical limits here in the real world and busy world and harsh world we actually must survive within. So I am not a big fan of spending valuable time studying things I'm unlikely to use -or- skills that aren't necessary for me to support my family ...... just so I can say I'm "educated". If "Rhodesia" should happen to become a big issue with major potential impact, pull it up on the internet and study the topic for an hour. [This is not a statement for or against "Rhodesia".]
You are painfully ignorant
The people that are ignorant are the ones who don't go online or get a book and start reading about past events. Those people are plain ignorant. Quit smoking weed and drinkin liquor and do something useful.
Republicans and TPers simply have a knee-jerk, blind hatred of the president, stoked all day every day by conservative television and radio shows. The merits of the president's policies don't matter to these folks. If Obama is behind it, they're fiercely against it. Period, no explanation or discussion. It will be the same for the Democrat who'll be elected POTUS in 2016. Just the way it is. When they don't hold all power, they fight like hell to obstruct and tear down whoever does. That's just who they are.
so true the republicans hate the fact we have a black president who would rather settle issues than send are armed forces into battle. i gurantee you if republican wins we will be in another war with in 2 years he is in office. i watch all news channels and to see the crap some news stations put on is total crap i.e fox news..
You should be honest. The tea party representatives are usually the first to try and stop the POTUS from sending troops to fight where the US has no interest The are trying to bring the troops out of CAR and stopped the troops going to fight in Syria Pres Obama funded the MB in Egypt Be honest or be quiet
Thank you, retief1954. How true that is! No matter who gets elected in 2016, we'll get stuck with another warmongering, right-wing fanatic like Barack Obama who broke almost every promise he ever made in 2008 and kept us at war!
That's why I voted for Obama for his second term. I was unwilling to vote for him for first term because I feared his [allegedly] "pacifist" supporters would turn him into a globalist marshmallow. I'm unwilling to have my children live under any President who thinks the world is populated with peace-loving Mary Poppins descendants.
Assuming you're a Republican or Libertarian, you're DEAD wrong. Type up Obama's kept and not kept promises, and you'll find he's kept close to 90% or more of what he said he would do. If you want to lose your house and end up homeless, vote in a Republican who will screw you and only help himself and corporate interest. That party doesn't give a ****. If you believe whatever they tell you, then you deserve what you probably get.
Not all Republicans oppose President Obama.
I support him and sent money to his campaigns.
I am still a Republican. I'm just waiting for my party to catch up with the clock.
WE WILL HAVE A LONG, LONG WAIT I AM AFRAID !
I honestly don't see that happening any time soon. I agree with some of their views, but with that Tea Party movement on them like cancer, I can't vote for a Republican. And the Democrats have some views I don't agree with.
As a Vietnam War combat vet who now directs two programs (a SUNY study abroad program and an NGO that helps Agent Orange victiims) in Da Nang, it makes my blood chill to see US Navy ships docking in Vietnam today – under the guise of protecting this nation from a phoney threat from China. Deja vu. It does look like we are doomed to repeat history.
I agree, Ken. I love to have improved relations with Vietnam but on the other hand, the threat from China is every bit as phony as you said above. We have no business sending our military to that part of the world, none at all!
[US diplomacy is violating democracies]
90% Afghan people wants US troops to get out from Afghanistan for 10 years, but the shamelessly US kills 30,000 innocent Afghan.
85% Iraqi people wants the US troops to get out from Iraq; at last they expel corrupt US soldiers and become an ally of Iran. 100,000 innocent Iraqis and 4500 US soldiers are murdered by the US violence.
62% Syrian people support their government, only 10% support the rebel, but the corrupt US government provides weapon, money and gas to kill Syrian children. Now 76000 innocent Syrian are killed by the US violence. The US is violating humanity, violating morality and violating democracy seriously.
Non-Americans killing people is acceptable/necessary – Americans killing people is not acceptable/necessary. Thank you for clarifying your rational position.
Dear @EA Marco Polo,
If you looked into history of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria over last 50 yrs they were busy with coups, wars and civil war with and without outside help. Don't paint picture of paradise destroyed by evil US. US liberals may be naive in believe that democracy solves all problems, but they are not source of problems. These countries host bunch of wary tribes and clans that value tribal relations far more than national interests.
Well said, EA Marco Polo. Just ignore those who disagree with you since none of them probably ever finished High School in the first place!
First, most soldiers are not corrupt, just mainly doing their job. And secondly, we're no loner providing aid to the rebels. I don't think we need an Al-Qaeda backed state their.
[Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan should get compensations from Corrupt US]
The US also puts 2.2 million own citizens in crowded US jails, it is about half of world prisoners; and the US is largest consumer for evil drug; Mexico becomes a victim of US addiction in drug. Per year Obama borrow 6-7% of GDP but the growth rate is 2-3%, certain the growing is a fake. Borrowing bigger than growing that is fake economy for every country.
Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan should unite to demand apologies and compensation (US$ 10 trillion, 7.6 trillion and 3 trillion) from the US government. They will win, because in 2039 a great dominant justice power will be born in East Asia.
..... okay. We'll meet you in large claims court in 2039. ( Assuming you haven't all killed one another in internal fighting sooner.)
When Americans finally realize that these wars in the middle east have zero to do with our country and 100% to do with Israel, you'll have a clear foreign policy. Right now Congress is owned by "The Lobby" and will send our kids and money anywhere Netanyahu asks. The media is complicit so it's only forums and groups where Americans can truly learn the reasons WHY we are attempting regime change in all these places.
Yes. Looking at a map of that region, it is difficult to understand why Giant Israel would want to be surrounded by democracies in the Tiny Middle East.
For people who voted for Mitt Romney last year, they know quite well that if he was in office, we would do whatever Israel asks us to do. After all, they are good friends.
He probably will do more ... as it is good for business.
Foreign policy should be close the massive trade deficit, punish corporate traitors, stay out of foreign affairs, and take care of our internal problems.
Your plan doesn't sound like it would have been much help at Normandy.
Is HLN signalling on Christmas Day by repeatedly broadcasting
Will & Kate + One a subliminal desire to transform the Presidency to a non-Executive one, like a Monarchy,
with the VP becoming a PM with a Cabinet alongside in the Congress leading debate on their portfolios from the Floor, rather than outside on the Lawn..
P.S. A tip for the voice coach of your lady broadcasters pronouncing Duke, the French way is with a hard U giving Dook, the English way is with a soft U giving Dyuke; this trick invented by Nichol Williamson.
..... uh ..... extremely useful information. Thank you.
A cautionary tale:
After the Revolutionary War, U.S. citizens continued to serve in the military and bravely sacrificed their lives in 19 more wars. 19 more wars, all of which occurred in foreign countries with the exception of the War of 1812, and the Civil War and American Indian Wars when we turned our guns upon our own people.
And in the U.S., we sit with our eyes blankly staring and with our mouths agape every 4th of July and say, "ooh and aah" as we again celebrate our “bombs bursting in air.”
In the U.S., almost from birth we are taught to sing our National Anthem written, of course, about and during a war, the War of 1812.
In the U.S., almost since birth we sing most loudly, always in unison and cheer as fighter jets perform low fly-bys.
In the U.S., we sing about “the perilous fight” and “rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air.”
In the U.S., our National Anthem fittingly concludes, “Then conquer we must,”
In the U.S., our majority of citizens require or pressure even our youngest children to promise to obey our government which is after all, the same when we "Pledge Allegiance to the Flag."
You have convinced me. Let all the Terrorists and Nazis lay down all of their weapons for verification. Then I will gather my [suddenly safe] children around me and demand my government to do the same with Our weapons.
(If, however, you feel a compulsion to Go First: just swallow some cyanide and leave the rest of us out of your death wish and desire for sainthood.)
Americans are a divided nation period – not only on foreign policy but on everything....
Effectively we are two countries in one....
How wonderful that would be ... two countries in one. Maybe, we can take more.
Feels like we have One America cancelling out the opposing One America. So: One Side minus One Other Side = No Country.
If America wants to be one succes on an international level, USA needs to work closely with our NATO partners on important issues, such as peace keeping, avoiding wars, security and stability, WMD control and last but not least on economic issues. Doing it alone, with the current Washington DC strategy, will make America one loser, and is not gonna be taken seriously on any issue.
You will also have to give that same advice to other nations before I take you seriously.
who cares about foreign policy.
That's very interesting, and really shows that our US media plays a big part in the corruption and deceit that is going on in America to deceive the American people... I have tried to post a meaningful post, but it wasn't posted. when I posted something meaningless, it got posted.... interesting
I wonder whether your meaningless comment makes more sense to computer bugs.
check ou aipacs role in the corruption of Americas foreign policy.
Americans do not have a clue in foreign policy
At least, we know where and how to buy cheap stuffs.
We the people are divided because the elite are busy dividing up our wealth ....
When will we be by the people again?
I dont see anything wrong with a society where people are in disagreement and debate all the time. Criticism will make society smarter and hopefully, better. I learn a lot from people with different view than mine than those with a similar view of mine, except ... those boring propaganda stuffs.
Disagreement is one thing.
Taking money from other people to support policy they do not believe in is morally wrong .... at some point, it must become wrong.
America is doing better in recent years. Avoid getting sucked into a meaningless war in the Middle East. Iran is not our enemy and it has a weak military. The main goals remain are to protect against the illegitimate hostile regime in North Korea and to aid Eastern Europe. The Middle East reminds me of the banana republic wars in Latin America. And I don't see much to gain with such military conflicts. The one area where we can make a difference is to support Europe, France in particular, in its dealings in Africa when the need arises. We should seek to help Latin America and Africa with free trade agreements.
Foreign policy on borrowed money.
Borrowed or not, it is as good as money.
Haven't Iranian-originated weapons been killing our military in both Iraq and Afghanistan for years now? How does that chosen action = "Iran is not our enemy"?? Seems to me that Iran chose up sides already.
I think that anyone who bel ives
that George Bush is responsible for what is happening in the middle east must, also, blame Bill Clinton for everything going on in Africa, since he's the one who sent troops to Somalia.
The Chinese leaders must be high fiving each other (or chinese equivalent) after reading stories like this and saying
keep it coming baby, give us your factories, give us your jobs, give us your future and give us your monney, thattts the wayyy we liiiiiiikkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkke it!!
So the city of Fallujah has fallen to Al Qaeda, I would think that would be big news, wouldn't you?1
I think it is quite safe to say that we have no foreign policy, and that foreign relations are in complete turmoil because of it. This President is not proactive in peace negotiations, trade, foreign prisoners, etc..with other nations and he is untrusted by friends and enemies. he spends more time in secret dealings with the Muslim Brotherhood, a known terrorist organization, then with our legitimate allies. He is a pathological liar and most of the entire world, with the exception of MSNBC and some at CNN know this.
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