National survey finds Americans optimistic about foreign policy, want US to be ‘moral leader’

Before Donald Trump embarked on his first presidential tour abroad Friday, Ipsos conducted a nationwide survey in conjunction with NPR to gauge the current attitudes of U.S. citizens toward American foreign policy.

Using Trump’s “America First” campaign theme as a guide, surveyors asked Democrats, Republicans and independents their general feelings about the country’s role in world and other specific questions to test respondents’ knowledge of U.S. global affairs.

Perhaps most significantly, NPR/Ipsos found that Americans still want their country to be a main character on the world stage, with an overwhelming majority of just under 70 percent responding the U.S. “should be the moral leader of the world.”

While 70 percent of those surveyed also said America “should prioritize supporting democratic nations,” just over half also indicated that the U.S. should “stay out” of other country’s affairs, instead of intervening “in foreign conflicts to try to bring peace.”

“It’s the word intervention,” said Ipsos Public Affairs president, Clifford Young. “We want to help countries, but we don’t want to be stuck in their conflicts forever.”

However, when given the choice between two statements on what the focus of American foreign policy should be, 55 percent said “maintaining the current global order with the U.S. at the center.” Less than a quarter of respondents favored, “look out for Americans, even if it harms people in other countries.”

Seventy percent also agreed that the U.S. should provide foreign aid to countries for humanitarian purposes, while nearly half said America “should not hesitate to use its military power,” — including 69 percent of Republicans and 40 percent of Democrats.

Despite partisan disagreement on America’s use of force, and to a lesser extent peaceful intervention, abroad, a clear majority, 79 percent, of both Democrats and Republicans said that trade deals with foreign nations should be utilized in American diplomatic efforts.

While Americans seem to have relatively strong opinions about philosophic global affairs questions, their knowledge in some specific foreign policies areas isn’t as robust, as a plurality of respondents only answered 10 of 15 questions correctly.

Most glaringly, only 15 percent of those 1,009 adults surveyed last week knew the U.S. pays for 22 percent of the UN’s total budget, while 39 percent falsely believed that American aid for Israeli defense decreased during Barack Obama’s White House tenure.