- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Americans are anxious and frustrated over the state of U.S. foreign relations, a survey indicates, with large majorities worried that the country’s foreign policy is making the world increasingly dangerous for the United States and its people.

The poll, conducted last month, included an “anxiety indicator” that calculates the level of angst in the country based on answers to five general survey questions. The indicator registered 130 on a scale of zero to 200, with zero being the most secure and 200 the most anxious.

That indicates “that apprehension and unease about the country’s international position are at high levels and that the public mood may be nearing a tipping point,” said veteran survey researcher Daniel Yankelovich, chairman of Public Agenda, the nonpartisan public-policy institute that released the study yesterday.

The survey identifies a “tipping point” as the point at which “attitudes have reached such a high level of concern that political leaders ignore it at their peril.”

“This level of public anxiety, combined with Americans’ disapproval of the nation’s current course, is not something leaders can just dismiss,” Mr. Yankelovich said.

“It’s not just one event or one specific policy that is worrying people. It’s Iraq; it’s the danger of a terrorist attack; it’s energy dependence; it’s our diminished reputation around the world; it’s the rise of violent Muslim extremism,” he said.

This was the third survey of the Public Agenda Confidence in U.S. Foreign Policy Index. The first was in June 2005 and the second in January. The latest was the first to include the Anxiety Indicator, which will be a part of subsequent surveys with the same five questions.

The survey finds that slightly more than eight in 10 Americans worry about the way things are going for the United States, and nearly eight in 10 feel the world has become more dangerous for the United States and Americans.

These are some of the survey’s findings that reflect a disconnect with current U.S. government policy:

• 87 percent of Americans think the threat to national security is exacerbated when other countries and cultures view the United States in a negative light; 78 percent think their country is seen as arrogant.

• 52 percent think democracies reduce conflict and violence, but 64 percent think democracy can’t be imposed and that countries have to be ready for it.

• 20 percent think the United States can do “a lot” to nourish a democratic system in Iraq; only slightly more, or 24 percent, feel that creating democracies should be a very important goal for the United States.

On a grading system, fewer than one in three respondents gave the U.S. government an A or B in achieving its objectives in Iraq or Afghanistan; and fewer than one in four graded A or B on becoming less dependent on other countries for energy and having good relations with Muslim countries.

The survey said energy independence registered higher than any other issue on whether the government should be held accountable for its failures.

Eighty-seven percent said the government could do “something” or “a lot” to decrease dependence on other countries for energy supplies. An increasing number, 41 percent, up from 35 percent in the previous survey, said it was realistic to expect the government to maintain a steady supply of oil at a reasonable price.

The survey, conducted in cooperation with Foreign Policy magazine, was based on telephone interviews with a national random sample of 1,001 persons older than 18 from Sept. 5 to 18. The margin of error for the overall sample is 3.5 percentage points.


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