So what do Americans think about their foreign policy?

Foreign Affairs has launched a joint project with Public Agenda to gauge the American public’s attitudes towards U.S. foreign policy. The “Confidence in U.S. Foreign Policy Index” is designed to poll public attitudes repeatedly over time, so this first poll mostly serves as a useful baseline. So what did they find out? Well, according to ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
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Foreign Affairs has launched a joint project with Public Agenda to gauge the American public's attitudes towards U.S. foreign policy. The "Confidence in U.S. Foreign Policy Index" is designed to poll public attitudes repeatedly over time, so this first poll mostly serves as a useful baseline. So what did they find out? Well, according to the press release, Public Agenda Chairman Daniel Yankelovich says:

Americans are broadly uneasy about the quality of our relations with the rest of the world, especially Muslim nations. The questions reveal widespread doubts about the country?s current course. But there is no consensus on which direction to take.

Yankelovich has clearly been using the Pundit Handbook -- replace "the country?s current course" with any public policy problem you like and that sentence can be recycled (I have no doubt Yankelovich also believes that baseball players "just need to play one game at a time"). Seriously, the big news seems to be that Americans are concerned about how non-Americans view their country:

Foreign Affairs has launched a joint project with Public Agenda to gauge the American public’s attitudes towards U.S. foreign policy. The “Confidence in U.S. Foreign Policy Index” is designed to poll public attitudes repeatedly over time, so this first poll mostly serves as a useful baseline. So what did they find out? Well, according to the press release, Public Agenda Chairman Daniel Yankelovich says:

Americans are broadly uneasy about the quality of our relations with the rest of the world, especially Muslim nations. The questions reveal widespread doubts about the country?s current course. But there is no consensus on which direction to take.

Yankelovich has clearly been using the Pundit Handbook — replace “the country?s current course” with any public policy problem you like and that sentence can be recycled (I have no doubt Yankelovich also believes that baseball players “just need to play one game at a time”). Seriously, the big news seems to be that Americans are concerned about how non-Americans view their country:

Contrary to conventional wisdom that the American public doesn’t know and doesn’t care how it is seen abroad, strong majorities of the public believe the view of the United States is suffering abroad and large majorities are worried about it. Three-quarters say they worry that “the U.S. may be losing the trust and friendship of people in other countries” and that “there may be growing hatred of the U.S. in Muslim countries.” In both cases, four in ten say they worry “a lot” about this, compared to the one-quarter who say they don’t worry at all. A smaller majority, six in ten, say they’re at least somewhat worried that accusations of torture against the U.S. will hurt our reputation.

Indeed, at this graph suggests, Americans also seem to prefer using “soft power” approaches to combat radical Islamists:

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The irony, of course, is that when asked about some of these economic measures — say, trade and immigration — our mercantilist impulse kicks in. Consider immigration:

58% say tighter controls on immigration would strengthen national security “a great deal.” Another 30 percent said tighter immigration would at least “somewhat” strengthen security. Of all the security proposals cited in the survey, this is second only to improving U.S. intelligence operations (65% said that would help a great deal). Another 41% think it would improve security a great deal to have tighter controls on foreign students in American universities. (emphasis added)

Then there is trade:

When it comes to American jobs and the global economy, the best words to sum up public attitudes are frustration and fatalism. The public doesn’t believe the government is protecting U.S. jobs, but then again, it seems cynical about whether anyone can. Half of Americans give the U.S. a “D” or “F” grade on protecting American jobs from going overseas (and three in ten chose “F”). The grades are better, but hardly great, on making international trade agreements that benefit the U.S. Slightly more than half (53%) give the U.S. a grade of “C” or worse.

The immigration questions focus primarily on illegal kind of immigration, and the trade questions have less to do with trade and more to do with jobs, so maybe America’s schizophrenia is overrated. But it’s certainly there. Click here to explore the rest of the report. UPDATE: Yankelovich also has an essay in the forthcoming issue of Foreign Affairs summarizing the poll’s findings. One nugget of information that seems interesting:

Americans are at least as polarized on foreign affairs as they are on domestic politics. More surprisingly, this polarization seems to track the public’s religiosity: the more often Americans attend religious services, the more likely they are to be content with current U.S. foreign policy.

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he is the co-director of the Russia and Eurasia Program. Twitter: @dandrezner

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