Strong Support for Democracy Promotion in National Opinion Ballot

Americans participating in the Great Decisions annual National Opinion Ballot express strong support for democracy promotion.

by Kirsten Stevenson

New York City  - Participants in  Great Decisions discussion programs nationwide expressed strong support for the promotion of democracy as a primary goal of U.S. foreign policy, an objective a majority said should be carried out in conjunction with its partners worldwide.  The finding is just one of many opinions expressed as part of the Foreign Policy Association's annual National Opinion Ballot Report.

Tens of thousands of Americans participate annually in the nation's largest discussion program on international affairs and U.S. foreign policy, where they were polled about their opinions on the eight foreign policy topics covered in the 2012 series.

"Foreign policy decisions are rarely black and white," said Editor-in-Chief Karen Rohan.   "Most believe that the U.S. should actively promote democracy around the globe, but a majority also believe that democracy promotion should be channeled through organizations like the UN and NATO, not undertaken unilaterally."

Nearly 60 percent said the U.S. should actively promote democracy, while  74 percent of balloters believe this responsibility should now be shared with organizations such as the UN and NATO.  This deliberative poll of well-informed Americans contrasts sharply with a Pew survey that found only 13 percent of randomly polled individuals believe democracy promotion should be a primary obligation of the US.

Those who took the ballot also said the U.S. should re-evaluate its relations with semidemocratic allies like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and 65 percent said the U.S. should promote open networks in countries where cyberspace is filtered. Most also said the U.S. has been on the "right side" of new governments borne of the Arab Spring. 

"The best way to promote democracy is by example," said one balloter from Marietta, Ohio.

Balloters were also polled on U.S. relations with Mexico, the state of the world's oceans and other 2011 Great Decisions topics.