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Americans anxious about US foreign policy

84% of respondents said they worried about the way things were going for the US.

world Updated: Apr 05, 2007 12:24 IST

Americans are increasingly anxious about the direction of United States foreign policy, with little public appetite for using military force to settle international disputes, according to a poll released on Wednesday.

The Confidence in US Foreign Policy Index, published by think tank Public Agenda and the magazine Foreign Affairs, also found rising concern for the way the United States is seen abroad, and strong support as well for pulling US troops from Iraq.

"This latest Confidence in US Foreign Policy Index... provides mounting evidence of widespread public doubt about the country's international position," the two organisations said in the study.

Public Agenda's Anxiety Indicator, which is billed as gauging Americans' anxiousness or contentment with US foreign policy, stood at 137 -- above the neutral mid-point of 100 and seven points higher than it was in September 2006.

"The Anxiety Indicator is moving closer to the 150 mark, the 'red zone' that to me would signal a full blown crisis of public confidence," said Daniel Yankelovich, chairman of Public Agenda.

"The new research provides striking evidence that Americans' anguish over Iraq is spilling over to other areas of foreign policy -- with serious potential effects on the policy options available to current and future leaders," the report added.

An overwhelming 84 per cent of respondents said they worried about the way things were going for the United States in world affairs and 82 per cent said the world was becoming more dangerous for the United States and its people.

Almost three out of four said the country was not doing a good job as a world leader in creating a more peaceful and prosperous planet, while 68 per cent said the rest of the world saw the United States negatively.

And while six out of 10 said the United States had a moral obligation to the people of Iraq, seven out of 10 favored withdrawing US troops from the country.

"Overwhelmingly negative opinions on the efficacy of military options can't help but impact future decisions made by our country's leaders," the report said, singling out the case of Iran.

Only eight per cent favoured military action against Iran, which has repeatedly defied the United States over its nuclear program.

Some 59 per cent of respondents said they did say they did not trust the government to tell the truth on foreign affairs, up 10 points since September.

"Many recent polls have said that Americans are disillusioned with the Iraq war, but this research goes deeper," said Gideon Rose, Foreign Affairs' managing editor.

"We are seeing the public seriously inclined to limit America's foreign policy options because they no longer trust Washington's judgment," he said.

Faith in the government's ability to prevent a repeat of the September 11 attacks also fell, with only 36 per cent saying there was a lot the government can do to ward off the eventuality of another major attack.

And while 82 per cent said they were worried about the possibility of unfriendly nations becoming nuclear powers, 63 per cent said it was unrealistic to expect the US government to be able to prevent proliferation.

The poll identified improving intelligence operations and increasing energy independence as the country's foreign policy priorities.

By comparison, actively creating democracies in other countries found little support, with 74 per cent saying democracy is "something countries only come to on their own."

"The public has come to the conclusion that military solutions aren't the answer," said Public Agenda's president, Ruth Wooden.

The study questioned 1,013 adults between February 21 and March 4.

First Published: Apr 03, 2007 14:06 IST