Americans no longer trust President Obama’s “lackadaisical” approach to foreign policy and would rather the United States diminish its presence in global affairs, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.
Forty-seven percent of Americans responded to the poll that they would like to see the United States take on a smaller role on the world stage, lower than in similar polls by the media groups in pivotal years like 2001 and 1995. In contrast, less than 20% of respondents said they wanted a larger role for the United States internationally. On specifics, Americans’ approval of President Obama’s handling of the Ukrainian crisis has dropped to 37%–down from 43% in March–and approval for President Obama’s foreign policy overall is the lowest it has been in its presidency: 38%. Another 48% perceived globalization as a negative development for the United States economy.
The Wall Street Journal notes that these developments seem to indicate that Americans are still overwhelmingly concerned about fixing the American economy, and emphasis on foreign affairs, particularly when it concerns a number of blunders on the President’s part, is being perceived as being at the expense of the government remedying domestic economic problems.
Comments from those polled, however, proved just as illuminating as the statistics. One participant described President Obama as “hard to take seriously,” and his foreign policy “lackadaisical.” Another participant said she felt that the President “does more for them than he does for us.”
The poll follows a trend of Americans decreasing trust in the Obama administration to successfully navigate foreign policy. A poll conducted by YouGov last September found that 49% of Americans believed Russian President Vladimir Putin a more successful foreign policy operator than President Obama, with only 25% of Americans agreeing that President Obama was more capable. A Gallup poll released this February found a similar sentiment: 53% of Americans answered that they believed world leaders do not respect President Obama.
The expansive nature of national security could also have a hand in how American attitudes have changed towards international affairs. Almost half of Americans, for example, changed their internet usage habits in response to revelations on federal intelligence gathering from Edward Snowden. While polls indicate that Americans are uncomfortable with national security activities such as these, they also appear less likely to believe the tactics work: only 36% of Americans, according to a Rasmussen poll released last October, think the United States is winning the War on Terror, more than 12 years after the initiative began in 2001.
While recent polling appears to show that Americans do not want to participate in domestic affairs, their answers on specific international situations seem to indicate that they believe America has a role on the global stage, but that President Obama is inadequate to play it. While polls show Americans in favor of stepping out of the global stage when President Obama is leading the charge, other polls find that, with him out of the picture, Americans are more willing to participate. For example, a McLaughlin Associates poll conducted this January found that 59% of Americans would like to see stronger sanctions on Iran, sanctions being the province of the legislature and not the executive. Similarly, a YouGov poll from April finds that 60% of Americans support participation in NATO, where President Obama’s role is diluted by the presence of other world leaders.