Poll: 46% of Republicans Say US Does Too Little to Address Global Problems

By Patrick Goodenough | September 2, 2014 | 2:35 AM EDT

President Obama will travel to Europe this week for a NATO summit in Wales and a visit to Estonia. (AP Photo, File)

(CNSNews.com) – In just nine months, the percentage of Republicans saying the United States does too little to address global problems has more than doubled, while the proportion saying it does too much has dropped significantly, according to a new Pew Research Center poll.

Last November, just 18 percent of GOP respondents said the U.S. does too little; now that number has jumped to 46 percent – nine percentage points more than those saying the U.S. does too much – which has in turn dropped by 15 points.

Democratic respondents in the Pew survey for USA Today also shifted their thinking on the issue since November, although not to the same extent: The proportion of those saying the U.S. does too little climbed from 15 to 24 points, while those saying it does too much dropped from 46 to 36 points.

The percentage of Republicans saying the U.S. States does too little to address global problems has more than doubled in nine months, according to a new Pew poll. (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

The partisan divide over the issue has widened: Whereas last November 18 percent of Republicans and 15 percent of Democrats said the U.S. did too little to solve global problems, now nearly twice as many Republicans as Democrats hold that view.

The gravest international crises to have occurred over that nine-month period include the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq, and Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, triggering the biggest upset in relations between Moscow and the West since the end of the Cold War.

Released shortly before President Obama travels to Britain for a NATO summit likely to be dominated by Ukraine and ISIS, the poll also found that Americans’ opinions on the role the U.S. plays as world leader continue a long-term decline.

Forty-eight percent of respondents say the U.S. is a less important and powerful world leader than it was a decade ago, while 34 percent think it is as important, and 15 percent think it is more important, than 10 years ago.

Significantly more Republicans (64 percent) than Democrats (30 percent) said that the U.S. plays a less important role now

Asked whether Obama was “too tough,” “not tough enough” or “about right” when it comes to foreign policy and national security, 54 percent said he was “not tough enough” – a continuing increasing trend since 2009, when only 38 percent held that view

Thirty-six percent selected “about right” compared to 51 percent in 2009. Just three percent said he was “too tough” on those issues.

ISIS near the top of threats list

Sixty-five percent of the survey’s respondents believe the world is a more dangerous place than it was several years ago, while just seven percent thought it was safer.

When the pollsters asked respondents last November to identify the sources of the greatest threats, neither ISIS nor Russia’s tensions with neighbors featured on the list. Now, ISIS (67 percent) appears in close second place to “Islamist extremist groups like al-Qaeda” (71 percent), while 53 percent called “growing tensions between Russia and its neighbors” a top security threat.

Other threats cited were the Iranian and North Korean nuclear threats (59 and 57 percent respectively, both down since last November), “the rapid spread of infectious diseases from country to country,” (52 percent), and climate change, China’s emergence as a world power, and the Israel-Palestinian conflict (48 percent each).

On the other side of that question, the list of issues named as not being a threat was topped by global warming (20 percent), followed by China (14 percent), Israeli-Palestinian conflict (13 percent), North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs (nine percent each),  Russia (eight percent), al-Qaeda (six percent) and ISIS (five percent).

Wide partisan differences were evident over the seriousness of many of the identified security threats.

Most notably, only 25 percent of Republicans listed climate change as a threat, compared to 68 percent of Democrats.

Republicans were more likely than Democrats to regard as threats Iran’s nuclear program (by a margin of 18 points), China (17 points), Israeli-Palestinian conflict (16 points), al-Qaeda (13 points), ISIS (13 points) and North Korean nuclear program (five points).

Democrats viewed the spread of infectious diseases as a threat more than Republicans by a six-point margin. On Russia alone was there no difference between Republican and Democratic respondents’ perception of a security threat to the U.S.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow