U.S. President Barack Obama scored less than a 40% approval rating for nine of 10 foreign policy issues posed to the American public in a new Pew Research Center survey released on Tuesday.
By a 56% to 34% margin, Americans disapproved of his administration’s overall handling of foreign policy, giving Obama the thumbs down by even wider margins on questions over his handling of Syria, China, Afghanistan and Iran, Pew said in a 110-page report.
Its ‘America’s Place in the World’ survey found that foreign bungling has made Americans more isolationist than ever, with 52% saying that the United States “should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own,” compared with 38% who favor active involvement. Pew said this was the most lopsided balance in favor of the U.S. “minding its own business” in the nearly 50-year history of the survey question.
The survey is taken every four years via a telephone poll of 2,000 Americans. It was completed two weeks before the Obama administration announced its agreement, reached in Geneva, to lift sanctions on the Iranian regime in exchange for it agreeing to slow nuclear development.
But the Pew survey found that, among those who heard about the nuclear talks with Iran, six out of 10 Americans believed that the Iranian leaders have no intention of addressing international concerns about the country’s nuclear enrichment program. The public’s doubts over Iran were even starker by party; 73% of Republicans, 62% of Independents and 48% of Democrats didn’t believe the Iranians.
Nearly seven-in-ten Americans (68%) said that Iran’s nuclear program was a major threat to the well-being of the United States, Pew said.
When asked which country represents the greatest danger to the United States, Iran and China scored the most votes, with 16% each. Nearly one-in-ten (9%) actually said that the United States, itself, represents the greatest danger, while 7% each cited North Korea and Iraq, Pew said.
Pew also surveyed members of the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan membership organization and think tank specializing in U.S. foreign policy, which was its partner on the research. More broadly, 51 percent of the public and 52 percent of CFR members surveyed doubt President Obama is tough enough on foreign policy. Four years ago, just under half of the public and about a third of CFR members surveyed held this view.
James M. Lindsay, Senior Vice President, Director of Studies, and Maurice R. Greenberg Chair at the Council on Foreign Relations, who led the research, said the perception of weakness and the president’s disapproval ratings could hamper the Obama administration’s ability to legislate.