February 27, 2012

Americans, Western Europeans Differ Sharply on Conditions for Using Military Force

45%

Just under half (45%) of Americans agree that United Nations approval should be sought before using military force to combat international threats. In contrast, two-thirds or more of publics in Germany, Spain, Britain and France believe UN approval should be a prerequisite for action.

When asked whether their country should have the approval of the United Nations before using military force to combat international threats, Americans differ sharply from Western Europeans.

Americans are almost evenly divided on the question: 45% say that the U.S. should have UN approval while 44% say that this requirement would make it too difficult to deal with threats. In contrast, solid majorities in the four Western European nations surveyed — including approximately three-quarters of people in Spain (74%) and Germany (76%) — say that their country should have UN approval before taking military action.

Far more American liberals than conservatives see UN approval as a prerequisite for military action. Close to six-in-ten (57%) liberals favor obtaining UN approval, while 33% say that this requirement would make it too difficult for the U.S. to deal with threats. In comparison, most conservatives (52%) say that getting UN approval would make it too difficult to deal with threats; just 38% say that this is an important step. Not surprisingly, the views of political moderates fall between liberals and conservatives, with 49% saying that the U.S. should seek UN approval and 42% echoing the view that this would make it too difficult to deal with threats. This ideological divide on the question of UN approval is generally not evident in Western Europe. Read More