As we move into our third year of Hope not Hate the survey below from Public Agenda reveals the critical need for greater exchange and understanding between the U.S. and the Muslim world:

New survey reveals deep worries about how the U.S. is seen abroad, but little agreement on what to do. Lack of progress on immigration and jobs are major frustrations.

New York City — Americans see the web of issues surrounding relations with the Islamic world as the fundamental foreign policy challenge facing the nation — but they have little idea what to do about it. American public thinking is a mixture of high anxiety, growing uncertainty and virtually no consensus about what direction the country should take. In a new Public Agenda survey, when Americans were asked to name the most important global problem facing the United States, Iraq and terrorism were the two top concerns, but a negative image of this country held by foreign nations ranked number three.

Three-quarters of Americans worry about losing trust and friendship abroad and about a growing hatred of the United States in Muslim countries (40% worry a lot). When asked how the rest of the world sees the United States, nearly two-thirds said the world has a negative view and fully one in 10 — the largest single group — actually used the words "bully" or "bullying" unprompted to describe how America is viewed from abroad.

While 63% of Americans say the charge that the United States has been "too quick to go to war" is totally or partially justified, only 19% of Americans say it is totally justified that the United States is only concerned with its own interests and disregards the interests of other countries. Fully 83% give the United States an "A" or "B" grade for helping other countries during natural disasters and half give the country similar grades for fostering democracy overseas. The worst grades were given to having good relations with Muslim countries (64% give the United States a "C" or worse).

In addition, three quarters of the public give the U.S. a "C" grade or worse in protecting our borders from illegal immigration, with nearly one-quarter giving an "F." Half of Americans give the country a "D" or "F" grade on protecting American jobs from going overseas (and three in 10 chose "F.")

These and other findings, released jointly today by Public Agenda in cooperation with Foreign Affairs, America’s most influential publication on international affairs and foreign policy, are part of the new Public Agenda Confidence in U.S. Foreign Policy Index. To be issued regularly by Public Agenda, the Index is designed to explore the public’s long-term judgments and beliefs about America’s role in the world. Supported with funding from the Ford Foundation, the index covers more than 25 different issues through more than 80 different survey questions.

Public Agenda Chairman Daniel Yankelovich noted "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."

"This Index does something individual polls don’t do — it provides insight into the public mind on the larger issues of international affairs," said Foreign Affairs Editor James F. Hoge, Jr. "Foreign Affairs is proud to provide a launching pad for this critical research."

Anxiety and Uncertainty

About half the public (49%) says there are "too many things worrying and disappointing" them about relations with the rest of the world, compared to 40% who say the United States is "generally doing the right things."

A large majority of Americans (87%) say showing more respect for the needs of other countries would enhance U.S. security at least "somewhat" and 59% say that improved communication with the Muslim world would reduce hatred of the United States.

But public support for diplomatic approaches goes hand-in-hand with strong support for tougher measures, with 64% of Americans saying it is "wrong but sometimes necessary" to cooperate with harsh, undemocratic governments. Fifty-six percent reject the idea that the U.S. will sometimes have to torture suspected terrorists, but four in 10 think it is necessary.

While half of Americans believe that spreading democracy will reduce violence, a significant minority (45%) disagree. Half also doubt that reducing global poverty will reduce terrorism.

Immigration and Jobs

Although not typically classified as major foreign policy issues, stemming illegal immigration and protecting American jobs are two areas that resonate exceptionally strongly with the public. The study notes that attitudes toward these problems are reaching a point where the public’s concerns will be too strong to be ignored.

In ranking proposals to improve U.S. security, tightening immigration was rated second only to improving U.S. intelligence operations. Three quarters of the public give the United States a "C" grade or worse in protecting our borders, with nearly one quarter giving an "F." Fifty-eight percent say tighter controls on immigration would strengthen national security "a great deal." Another 41% think it would improve security a great deal to have tighter controls on foreign students in American universities.

On the issue of jobs, the public doesn’t believe the government is protecting U.S. jobs, but then again, they seem cynical about whether anyone can, the report notes. Half of Americans give the United States a "D" or "F" grade on protecting U.S. jobs from going overseas. But 78% acknowledge that it is unrealistic to believe U.S. companies will keep jobs at home "when labor is cheaper elsewhere."

Message for Leaders

According to Public Agenda President Ruth A. Wooden, "The Public Agenda Confidence in U.S. Foreign Policy Index was specifically designed as a nonpartisan means of capturing the public’s longer-term concerns and judgments about the country’s stance in the world. We didn’t ask people about the president or about Republicans versus Democrats, as so many polls routinely do. Instead we asked people to think about how the country is doing overall. And the message for the country’s leadership suggests that the public considers these major issues and political leaders ignore them at their peril."

Methodology

To see the complete questionnaire with responses, go to www.publicagenda.org/foreignpolicy/index.cfm or www.foreignaffairs.org

These findings are based on four focus groups and telephone interviews with a national random sample of 1,004 adults over the age of 18. The survey was conducted between June 1 and June 13, 2005; it averaged 21 minutes in length. The margin of error for the overall sample of 1,004 is plus or minus 3 percentage points. The margin of error is higher when comparing percentages across subgroups.

Public Agenda is a nonprofit organization dedicated to nonpartisan public policy research. Founded in 1975 by former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Daniel Yankelovich, the social scientist and author, Public Agenda is well respected for its influential public opinion surveys and balanced citizen education materials. Its mission is to inject the public’s voice into crucial policy debates. Public Agenda seeks to inform leaders about the public’s views and to engage citizens in discussing complex policy issues.

Public Agenda Online (www.publicagenda.org) has just been named one of the "50 Coolest Websites" by Time.com, the only web site honored in the politics category.

Since 1922, the Council on Foreign Relations has published Foreign Affairs, America’s most influential publication on international affairs and foreign policy. Foreign Affairs has a circulation of 140,000 and was ranked No. 1 in influence by U.S. opin
ion leaders in last year’s national study of publications conducted by Erdos & Morgan, the premier business-to-business research firm. Inevitably, articles published in Foreign Affairs shape the political dialogue for months and years to come. (www.foreignaffairs.org)

Public Agenda is a nonprofit organization dedicated to nonpartisan public policy research. Founded in 1975 by former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Daniel Yankelovich, the social scientist and author, Public Agenda is well respected for its influential public opinion surveys and balanced citizen education materials. Its mission is to inject the public’s voice into crucial policy debates. Public Agenda seeks to inform leaders about the public’s views and to engage citizens in discussing complex policy issues.

Copyright © 2005 Public Agenda.

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