December 5, 2013

Republicans gloomier about U.S. role in the world

Republicans and Democrats have sharply different views about America’s role in the world and on some key questions  — such as whether the U.S. is more or less respected than in the past — their opinions depend on whether their party controls the White House, according to a new Pew Research Center survey released this week.

FT_13.12.05_ViewsUSPowerAbout three-quarters (74%) of Republicans surveyed in November said the U.S. now plays a less important and powerful role as a world leader than 10 years ago —more than the overall public (53%) and far more than Democrats (33%).

The partisan gap on whether the U.S. is less respected in the world than in the past is smaller than the gap on the question about the U.S. as a world leader: Eight-in-ten Republicans hold that view compared to 56% of Democrats. But the survey shows a big shift in sentiment among Republicans and Democrats over the years depending on whose party held the White House.

While Republicans now see the U.S. as less respected (during the Obama administration) than do Democrats by an 80% to 56% margin, those numbers were almost exactly the reverse in a May 2008 survey, near the end of the Bush Administration. In May 2008, 81% of Democrats said the U.S. was less respected compared to 60% of Republicans. And, toward the end of George Bush’s first term in July 2004, 80% of Democrats believed the U.S. was less respected compared to 47% of Republicans.


When it comes to America’s role in the world, there is one prominent area where partisan differences are relatively small. About half (51%) the overall public  believed the U.S. does too much in terms of helping solve world problems compared with 17% who think it does too little and 28% say it does about the right amount.

The view that America does too much is shared by 52% of Republicans and 46% of Democrats. Similar numbers of Republicans (18%) and Democrats (15%) say the U.S. does too little while 26% of Republicans and 36% of Democrats consider U.S. involvement abroad is the right amount.

FT_Policy_GapsBut significant partisan gaps re-appear when Americans are asked to rate their top long-range foreign policy priorities.

The biggest gap is over dealing with global climate change, reflecting a divide that also shows itself in polls about global warming as a domestic issue. Nearly six-in-ten (57%) of Democrats called dealing with global climate change a top long-range policy priority compared to 16% of Republicans — a 41 point gap.

On priorities important to them, Democrats also favor strengthening the United Nations by 25 points more than Republicans and back efforts to improve living standards in developing countries by 19 points more. When it comes to issues most important to Republicans, their biggest gap with Democrats is over the priority to put on reducing illegal immigration. The share of Republicans considering that a priority is 24 points higher than that of Democrats.

Topics: Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Foreign Affairs and Policy, Global Balance of Power

  1. Photo of Bruce Drake

    is a senior editor at Pew Research Center.


  1. John Cunningham4 years ago

    If the supreme court has ruled that religion can be religion but not a corporation, why is romneys name on the suit, why are the dates wrong? if it is sense 1860 then they owe the taxes sense then? to each county they are in? if they have a polictal view then they loose tax free status. or if they incorporate. mormon church v.united states 136 us 1 us supreme court and
    late corporation of the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints et al united states-romney et al v.same court ruled all corporate proptery sold and prophets given to dept. of education. good idea they should make health clinics out of their churches.

  2. Doug Kelly4 years ago

    It’s not at all surprising that there are many of both parties who feel gloomy and even downright ashamed of our foreign policy, because we really don’t seem to have one. A foreign policy that is.

    Pew asked a question without a requisite definition, or stance, that describes our foreign policy. Such a question can be answered only by the perception the respondents have of our policy of foreign affairs. I would doubt that any two people in the nation could firmly agree on what is the foreign policy of the United States. Perhaps Mr. Drake, Senior Editor of Pew Research Center, could tell us the reason such a wildly hypothetical question was used in this questionnaire. And why it was decided to attempt to make a connection by crude correlation to the political parties. After all, the results stated are only found by cross indexing the respondents’ cells on each question. The hypothesis of the study is systemically faulty. But that may be arguable.

    No one should be more embarrassed about this than our past and present presidents and members of congress of both parties. It is they who have enacted foreign affairs without regard to the consequences to our nation or to other nations. These actions have done nothing to make us “safer”. That is only the excuse given for the arrogance and corruption that our arrogant and corrupt foreign policy provides these elected officials. It does provide the naive with a sense of security, primarily so the incumbent politician can be re-elected as a savior of the citizens of our nation. Ashamed? Not likely. We as citizens have empirical proof that they have no shame.

    The study findings have little meaning in the context of our history. America has become less and less like a republic and more and more like an empire. The 20th Century was the Golden Age of the United States of America. During this Century, America has also had more non-defensive (offensive) wars than any other time in history. Not surprising that the dawn of the 20th Century was accompanied by the bombastic T Roosevelt, followed by the formation of the Federal Reserve Central Bank through which wars and foreign policy can be paid for. Immediately following this came an amendment allowing for the direct election of Senators, so the US now essentially has two Houses of Representatives in Congress. These two things ironically began our decline and descent from wildly successful nation of doers to a sadly depressing nation of takers.

    No one can blame all that on George W Bush, even though he was a poor president. Nor on Obama who is an even worse president. Ultimately the citizens who elect these political creatures are responsible. This Study is an exercise in futility because it was only about perceived partisanship rather than citizens realizing that those they trust with power will become corrupted by that power.

    Denny is just another partisan spewing leftover rhetoric about things he apparently does not understand.

  3. Denny4 years ago

    Republicans should feel gloomier about our position overseas, cause it was their man George W. Bush, that put a bad taste in every foreign leaders mouth he ran into!!!!! We all remember how repulsed so many leaders were,when they saw him walking toward them at different summit meetings. I was living in Europe at the time it was decided to invade Iraq. Most people I talked to,felt he was wrong to take our country to war. They applauded his father, for sticking up for little Kuwait and the United States was revered once again for being like “Supermen”!! It seems to me that everything George senior did to make us “shine” in world opinion, “monkey” George totally destroyed!!!