For almost 50-years, the Pew Research Center has been polling on the question of whether Americans think the U.S. “should mind its own business internationally,” but only now, for the very first time, have a majority of Americans answered in the affirmative.
I’m often wary to cite public opinion approvingly, mostly because it changes all the time. These results are a byproduct of a particular place and time, more than a decade of near constant war and excessive interventionism with nothing much to show for it.
There was an uptick in this sentiment following the Vietnam War too, and it slowly receded. Nevertheless, the results are significant.
Foreign policy, once a relative strength for President Obama, has become a target of substantial criticism. By a 56% to 34% margin more disapprove than approve of his handling of foreign policy. The public also disapproves of his handling of Syria, Iran, China and Afghanistan by wide margins. On terrorism, however, more approve than disapprove of Obama’s job performance (by 51% to 44%).
The public’s skepticism about U.S. international engagement – evident in America’s Place in the World surveys four and eight years ago – has increased. Currently, 52% say the United States “should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.” Just 38% disagree with the statement. This is the most lopsided balance in favor of the U.S. “minding its own business” in the nearly 50-year history of the measure.
Interestingly, most Americans (77%) think increased trade and business ties with the rest of the world is a good thing, while only 18% think its negative. So, quite explicitly, Americans don’t like greater involvement in the world by the U.S. government and they do like greater economic involvement in general.