World Publics Reject US Role as the World Leader

A multinational poll finds that publics around the world reject the idea that the should play the role of preeminent world leader. Most publics say the plays the role of world policeman more than it should, fails to take their country’s interests into account and cannot be trusted to act responsibly.

The United States’ Role in the World

Majorities in all 15 of the publics polled about the United States’ role in the world reject the idea that “as the sole remaining superpower, the US should continue to be the preeminent world leader in solving international problems.” However majorities in only two publics (Argentina and the Palestinian territories) say that the United States “should withdraw from most efforts to solve international problems.” The preferred view in all of the other cases is that the United States “should do its share in efforts to solve international problems together with other countries.”

In Asia, large majorities embrace the idea that the United States should play a cooperative role in South Korea (79%) and China (68%). A majority of Filipinos (55%) and a plurality of Indians (42%) also take this view, but they are among the few publics with substantial numbers saying the United States should play the role of the preeminent world leader: 20 percent in the Philippines and 34 percent in India. Thais are also relatively reluctant to support a cooperative role (47%), but very few endorse a preeminent role (8%) or disengagement (18%), while 27 percent declined to answer.

In Europe, the French are those most emphatic in their support for a cooperative role (75%), followed by Armenia (58%). A majority of Ukrainians (52%) also support this position, but an unusually high number (34%) supports US disengagement. In Russia, a plurality (42%) favors a cooperative role, but this is barely more than the percentage (38%) that favors disengagement.

In Latin America, about six in ten Peruvians (61%) and Mexicans (59%) believe the United States should cooperate with other countries to solve international problems. However, as mentioned above, Argentines are one of only two publics favoring US withdrawal from international efforts with 55 percent taking this position and 34 percent in favor of cooperation.

In the Middle East, Israelis and Palestinians differ sharply. A majority of Palestinians favor US disengagement (55%) while more than a third (36%) prefers cooperation. Israelis are more in line with most other publics in that 62 percent favor US cooperation, but they also show the second highest level of support (after India) for the US taking the role of preeminent leader (24%).

Americans match the French in their support for the United States doing its share together with other nations (75%), with small numbers favoring a preeminent role (10%) or isolationism (12%).

United States as World Policeman

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Majorities in 13 out of 15 publics polled say the United States is “playing the role of world policeman more than it should be.” This is the sentiment of about three-quarters or more of those polled in: France (89%), Australia (80%), China (77%), Russia (76%), Peru (76%), the Palestinian territories (74%) and South Korea (73%).

The US public is also among those most convinced that United States too often plays the role of world policeman. Seventy-six percent of Americans agree that their country is overdoing such activities.

In only one country does a majority disagree with the idea that the United States tends to take on the role of international enforcer more than it should: the Philippines. Fifty-seven percent of Filipinos reject the idea that the United States plays a police role too often, while only a third (31%) agrees that it does.

Israelis, who are the United States’ closest allies in the Middle East, are divided over whether the United States plays the global policeman role too often. Forty-eight percent of Israelis agree and forty-eight percent disagree.

The five other countries where majorities believe the United States is too often acting as world policeman are: Indonesia (68%), Ukraine (67%), Armenia (63%), Argentina (62%) and India (53%). In India, a country which has been among the most positive about the United States in recent years, a third (33%) disagrees.

The survey also asks respondents in nine countries whether the United States has the “responsibility to play the role of ‘world policeman,’ that is to fight violations of international law and aggression wherever they occur.” Majorities in eight of the nine countries say the United States does not have the responsibility to fight aggression and enforce international law. The exception is India, where a slight majority (53%) says the US does have this responsibility while a third (35%) says it does not.

Palestinians (76%) are the most likely of the publics surveyed to answer that the United States does not have such a responsibility. The next most likely are Americans themselves. Three-quarters of Americans (75%) reject the idea that their country has a duty to enforce international law.

Strong majorities of Armenians (70%), Australians (70%), Indonesians (69%), and Ukrainians (69%) also agree that the United States does not have this responsibility.

The United States’ greatest economic and military rival in Asia-China-and one of its closest allies-South Korea-are equally likely to reject the idea that the US government has a duty to enforce international law. Sixty-one percent of Chinese and60 percent of South Koreans answer no. South Koreans are only somewhat more likely to say yes (39%) than the Chinese (30%).

Read more to find out what the world public think about trusting the United States to Act Responsibly and US Overseas Military Bases.

Source: World Public Opinion

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