Q&A: American perceptions of U.S. Foreign Policy

This blog post was written by Jules Roger Sombaye Eyango, Communications Intern at InterAction

Last week, InterAction welcomed researchers from The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, who presented the findings from their latest survey on Americans’ perceptions of U.S. foreign policy. Following the briefing, we caught up with Grace Burton and Craig Kafura of The Chicago Council to learn more about the potential implications of these findings for the U.S. on the international scene, and for the NGO community. 

Considering the tension between nationalism and globalism that we observe around the world, what do your findings tell us about the way Americans want to see the U.S. on the international scene? Do they want a more protectionist America or a more globalist America?

The 2018 Chicago Council Survey tell us that Americans want to engage the world, rather than back away from it. Seven in ten say it’s best for the future of the country to take an active part in world affairs, record numbers see international trade as beneficial for the US and creating jobs at home, and rising majorities support international agreements like the Iran Deal and the Paris Agreement.

According to your report, Americans seem to support U.S. government efforts abroad. Can these findings be applicable to the American NGOs? If so, how can the NGO community leverage this support for its global work?

You’re right: bipartisan majorities of Americans support a variety of US government efforts abroad, such as by helping new democracies conduct elections with aid, technical assistance, and election monitoring. NGOs working on issues like these abroad should be cheered, knowing that they have the support of the American public.

In addition to what is in the report, our data also shows that Americans are willing to spend $8 out of a budget of $100 to support diplomacy and assistance programs. This is significantly larger than what is currently appropriated, and American NGOs can use this information to continue to fight for US leadership on development.

How can these findings contribute to strengthening the cooperation between the U.S. government and the NGO community to address global challenges?

When it comes to dealing with global challenges, Americans are broadly supportive of many of the goals NGOs and policymakers are pursuing in their work abroad. These are not projects that need to be hidden away for fear of public critique. Both the US government and the NGO community should embrace international efforts on key challenges, knowing the public supports their efforts.

Americans in general are generous and want to help, but are more likely to support humanitarian efforts in the abstract, with support often falling in specific circumstances. The US government and NGOs must work together to educate the American people on the importance and needs of the causes they are supporting. NGOs are in a unique position to tell Americans the stories of those they are helping.

To learn more, read the full report at www.thechicagocouncil.org