New Poll Shows Americans Favor Non-Intervention

A new poll conducted by the Eurasia Group Foundation shows Americans are losing their belief in American exceptionalism, and tend to favor a more non-interventionist foreign policy. The participants were asked a range of foreign policy questions.

Over 1,200 people across the country were surveyed for the Eurasia Group poll. Here are some of its findings:

Most of the participants believe that America is an exceptional nation. 42.4 percent believe America is exceptional for what it represents, and 18.2 percent believe the nation is exceptional for what it has done in the world. 39.5 percent of the participants believe America is not exceptional, just another country acting on behalf of its own interests. That number is up 6.1 percent from the previous year.

Looking at the different age groups shows younger people do not think America is anything special. In the 18-29-year age bracket, just 45.1 percent find America to be exceptional. Those who are 60 and over find America to be the most exceptional, at 75.2 percent.

The participants were asked how peace is best achieved and sustained by the US and were given the choice of four responses. The most popular response was "keeping a focus on domestic needs" which was chosen by 34.4 percent. The second most popular choice "establishing, encouraging, and reinforcing global economic integration" came in at 28.3 percent. Third was "promoting and defending democracy" which received 19 percent of the vote. The fourth and most hawkish sounding response "maintaining overwhelming strength" came in last with 18.3 percent.

The next question asked how the US should respond to humanitarian abuses overseas. Most participants would opt for restraint which came in at 47.1 percent (up 2 percent from the previous year). A UN-led response came in second at 33.5 percent, and US military action was the least popular response at 19.4 percent.

The next question asked if the respondents were in favor of increasing the defense budget, decreasing it or keeping it the same. Exact numbers were not provided, but they found half of the participants were in favor of keeping the budget the same and "twice as many of the remaining respondents preferred decreasing rather than increasing the defense budget." So, more respondents preferred a decrease in spending, rather than an increase.

The Pentagon has pivoted its focus to China in recent years, calling for a larger US presence in the Indo-pacific region. When asked how to deal with China, 57.6 percent of the participants said the US should reduce its presence in Asia, while 42.4 percent believe the US should send more troops to allied countries in the region.

Moving on to the war in Afghanistan, 38.8 percent believe the US should withdraw immediately, or within a year. 31.4 percent want to negotiate a peace with the Taliban and continue fighting until a deal is reached. The remaining 29.8 percent take a hawkish approach and want US troops to remain in the country until "all enemies are defeated."

The participants were asked if Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, or Israel posed the biggest threat to peace in the Middle East. The vast majority chose Iran as the biggest threat to peace in the region.

The Iran nuclear deal is the last topic in the poll. The question asks the participants, "If Iran gets back on track with its nuclear weapons program, how should the US respond?" (Although Iran may have never had a nuclear weapons program.)

The respondents were given four choices to the nuclear deal question. Here they are ranked in order of most popular to least (exact numbers were not given):

  1. The US and its allies should attempt to revive nuclear negotiations and pursue a diplomatic solution even while Iran remains a nuclear power in the short term
  2. The US should pressure Iran to give up its weapons by working with its allies to impose stronger economic sanctions even if business interests of America and its allies are negatively affected
  3. The US should not intervene. Iran has the right to defend itself even if it means possessing nuclear weapons as a deterrent.
  4. The US should launch a preventive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities even if it risks starting a full-scale war.

This poll from the Eurasia Group Foundation reflects a poll released by the Pew Research Center back in July. The Pew poll found most veterans they surveyed do not believe the wars they fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria were worth fighting. A shocking 64 percent found the war in Iraq was not worth it, 58 percent for the war in Afghanistan, and 55 percent for Syria.

The Costs of War project at Brown University released a study this November that found the so-called War on Terror has killed over 800,000 people, and cost the US $6.4 trillion. The death toll only takes into account those killed in direct violence, not including those killed by disease, malnutrition, or other indirect causes. It’s no mystery as to why Americans, even those who fought the wars, are starting to favor a more noninterventionist approach.

Dave DeCamp is assistant editor at Antiwar.com and a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn NY, focusing on US foreign policy and wars. He is on Twitter at @decampdave.