The Chicago Council on Global Affairs has just released a new poll (pdf) which shows some pretty interesting things about American’s views of the United States’ role in the world. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the current economic situation, Americans named “protecting the jobs of American workers” and “reducing dependence on foreign oil” as their top two foreign policy goals of the United States (fig. 18).
In regard to U.S. policy in the Middle East, the poll shows that “Americans are at present reluctant to resort to a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, preferring economic sanctions and diplomacy”:
Very strong majorities do not think it is likely that a military strike would cause Iran to give up trying to have a nuclear program. They also think a strike would likely result in retaliatory attacks against U.S. targets in neighboring states as well as in the United States itself.
“If all efforts fail to stop Iran,” the poll shows that “Americans are about evenly divided on whether to conduct a military strike,” but a strong majority favors continue working through the UN:
A slight majority reported that, if Iran were to allow UN inspectors “permanent and full access throughout Iran to make sure it is not developing nuclear weapons,” then “Iran should be allowed to produce nuclear fuel for producing electricity.”
Particularly interesting are views on a possible military conflict between Iran and Israel, “prompted by an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities”:
A majority (56%) says the United States should not bring its military forces into such a conflict, with 38 percent saying it should. Contrary to the long-standing, official U.S. position, fewer than half of Americans show a readiness to defend Israel even against an unprovoked attack by a neighbor. Asked whether they would favor using U.S. troops in the event that Israel were attacked by a neighbor, only 47 percent say they would favor doing so, while 50 percent say they would oppose it.
In regard to U.S. involvement in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, while a far larger percentage of respondents said that the U.S. should take Israel’s side (28%) over the Palestinian’s (3%) a large majority of 66% thought that the U.S. should “not take either side”:
Almost two thirds of Americans are against Israeli settlements in the West Bank, with 62 percent saying Israel “should not build” these settlements.
Significantly, the report also notes that “when resolution of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is presented as a measure that could help in combating terrorism,” something Americans consider “a top, direct threat to the United States,” a clear majority (58%) favor making a “major effort” to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. This demonstrates the importance of continuing to highlight the linkage argument made by Gen. Petraeus, Defense Secretary Gates and others over the last year. It also shows why those who oppose the peace process will continue to deny linkage exists.
Finally, in one of the more troubling figures in the poll (on which I hope to write more later), while still a slight minority view, a sharp rise from 2008 in the number of Americans who believe that Western and Muslim civilizations are incompatible: