WASHINGTON – For the first time in nearly 40 years, most Americans believe their country’s influence is on the decline and that the United States wields less global power than it did a decade ago.
A majority also believe for the first time that America should “mind its own business,” while faulting President Barack Obama for his foreign policy, especially over Syria.
The findings are the result of a Pew Research Center poll of some 2,003 people carried out in conjunction with the Council on Foreign Relations between Oct. 30 and Nov. 6.
“For the first time in surveys dating back nearly 40 years, a majority (53 percent) says the United States plays a less important and powerful role as a world leader than it did a decade ago,” the center says in its report.
That finding is up 12 points from 2009 and has more than doubled since 2004, during the administration of then-President George W. Bush.
Seventy percent of those surveyed also said the United States commanded less respect than it did in the past, matching levels seen toward the end of Bush’s second term.
Foreign policy, which was once seen as one of Obama’s strengths as he sought to repair the battered U.S. image abroad, was also sharply criticized.
“By a 56 percent to 34 percent margin more disapprove than approve of his handling of foreign policy,” the poll found.
“The public also disapproves of his handling of Syria, Iran, China and Afghanistan by wide margins.”
For the first time in nearly half a century of doing such polls, Pew found that skepticism about U.S. international engagement was sharply on the rise.
Some 52 percent of those polled believed the United States “should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own,” with just 38 percent disagreeing with the statement.
Those who said that the U.S. does “too much” to try to solve the world’s problems — some 51 percent — mostly believed that domestic issues, including the economy, should be the administration’s primary focus.
However, despite the growing numbers opposed to U.S. international engagement, there was support for a global economy, with 77 percent saying growing trade and business ties with other countries was good for the U.S.
Obama, however, was also found lacking when it comes to foreign policy, with the public giving him a job rating of less than 40 percent for his handling of nine out of 10 overseas challenges.
These included Syria and Afghanistan, with 57 percent disapproving of his policy toward both war-torn countries; climate change, where he scored a 46 percent disapproval rating; and Iran and China, in which 53 percent and 52 percent of those polled took issue with Obama’s policies.
Terrorism was the only issue in which more people approved of the job he is doing, some 51 percent, than disapproved, some 44 percent.
While extremists groups such as al-Qaida, and nations such as Iran and North Korea topped the list of global threats, Americans also emerged as deeply worried by possible cyberattacks on the United States.
Seven in 10 people said cyberattacks posed a major threat to the United States, on par with al-Qaida and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.