The Multilateralist

How Popular is the United Nations with Americans?

The Better World Campaign recently released the findings of a regular survey it conducts on attitudes in the United States toward the United Nations. It found mostly good news for the world organization: Sixty percent of Americans have a favorable impression of the UN and most want the United States to pay its UN dues ...

The Better World Campaign recently released the findings of a regular survey it conducts on attitudes in the United States toward the United Nations. It found mostly good news for the world organization: Sixty percent of Americans have a favorable impression of the UN and most want the United States to pay its UN dues in full and on time:

The poll—conducted following a productive UN General Assembly meeting in New York and during the federal government shutdown—also showed strong support for paying U.S. dues to the UN on time and in full.

In a survey of 900 registered voters, seventy-three percent report seeing, reading, or hearing about the crisis in Syria. More than eight in 10 say that the United States should be supportive of the UN overseeing the collection and destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons; the same number say that the U.S. should support the UN’s work to provide humanitarian aid, relief, and shelter to Syria’s refugees (asked of 440 respondents).

The Better World Campaign recently released the findings of a regular survey it conducts on attitudes in the United States toward the United Nations. It found mostly good news for the world organization: Sixty percent of Americans have a favorable impression of the UN and most want the United States to pay its UN dues in full and on time:

The poll—conducted following a productive UN General Assembly meeting in New York and during the federal government shutdown—also showed strong support for paying U.S. dues to the UN on time and in full.

In a survey of 900 registered voters, seventy-three percent report seeing, reading, or hearing about the crisis in Syria. More than eight in 10 say that the United States should be supportive of the UN overseeing the collection and destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons; the same number say that the U.S. should support the UN’s work to provide humanitarian aid, relief, and shelter to Syria’s refugees (asked of 440 respondents).

Americans also broadly support strong involvement in the UN: 88 percent say it is important that the U.S. maintain an active role in the UN. Further, nearly two thirds—63 percent—support paying our dues to the UN on time and in full, and 71 percent support paying peacekeeping dues on time and in full.

The UN’s favorable numbers matched the highest results since 2009 and the unfavorables matched the lowest. Other findings hinted at just how little most Americans know about the UN however. 68 percent of those polled did not know who Ban Ki-moon was and 70 percent couldn’t identify Samantha Power. Full results of the poll, including the questions asked, are here.

Brett Schaefer at the Heritage Foundation is skeptical that the survey accurately represents U.S. sentiments:

This conclusion by the BWC, a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening U.S. ties with the U.N., seems at odds with other polls. The most recent Gallup poll, conducted February 25–26, finds that Americans see the U.N. as “relevant on the world stage,” but “Americans are not highly positive about the job the United Nations is doing.”

When Gallup asked its standard question, “Do you think the United Nations is doing a good job or a poor job in trying to solve the problems it has to face?” only 35 percent of Americans said the U.N. is doing a “good job,” compared with 50 percent who said it’s doing a “poor job.”

This poll is consistent with long-term U.S. opinion. In the 35 Gallup polls posing that question, since 1953, respondents who answered that the U.N. was doing a poor job outnumbered those who thought it was doing a good job, by an average of 50 percent to 39 percent.

But even the Gallup numbers that Schaefer highlights do point to a modest recovery in the UN’s image from a prolonged slump that began after the 2003 Iraq War.

David Bosco is an associate professor at Indiana University's School of Global and International Studies. He is the author of books on the U.N. Security Council and the International Criminal Court, and is at work on a new book about governance of the oceans. Twitter: @multilateralist

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