Meeting the Moment: The U.S. and the UN in 2023

American Attitudes Toward the UN

Over the course of two decades, the Better World Campaign has surveyed American voters on their opinion of the United Nations: Do Americans feel favorably about the organization? Do they believe the UN is needed today? Do they support the paying of dues to the UN? Since 2009, the Better World Campaign has conducted this research through the bipartisan team of Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research Associates.

In 2022, U.S. voters’ favorable opinions of the United Nations grew considerably from the year before: 62% of those polled had a favorable opinion of the UN, an increase from 56% in 2021.

UN Favorability over time

Each year we include a topical question among our standard questions. While we cannot say for certain what is responsible for the increase in Americans’ positive sentiment overall, this year’s topical question offers a clue. With the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine being felt across the world, we asked American voters whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “The United Nations is playing a positive role in Ukraine.” A majority of U.S. voters, 52%, responded that they believe the United Nations is playing an important role in Ukraine.

In a follow-up question, we presented a list of the UN’s functions in Ukraine and asked respondents to choose the most important function. Republicans and Democrats alike chose “establishing humanitarian safe zones for civilians and delivery of humanitarian aid.”

Most Important UN Functions In Ukraine

  • 29% Establishing humanitarian safe zones for civilians and delivery of humanitarian aid
  • 23% Providing food and shelter for Ukrainian refugees and displaced people
  • 14% Monitoring Ukraine’s nuclear facilities
  • 8% Negotiating grain shipments to address the hunger crisis
  • 6% Providing emergency health care to Ukrainians
  • 3% Assisting Ukrainian farmers with crops
  • 3% Raising money to help Ukrainians
  • 6% All of the above
  • 8% Don’t know/Wouldn’t answer

After learning the scope of the UN’s actions in Ukraine, favorable opinions of the UN’s work overall increased significantly, from 52% to 63%. The increase was especially notable among independent voters, whose approval of the UN’s work in Ukraine jumped 19 points.

Some findings have remained roughly consistent over the years. Roughly 7 in 10 voters (69%) believe the UN is still needed today. Roughly 3 in 4 voters believe it is better for the U.S. to work with allies and through international organizations (74%) than to act mainly on its own (21%) when it comes to achieving U.S. foreign policy goals. This viewpoint holds true across partisan lines (Republicans: 61%, Independents: 66%, Democrats: 92%). Perhaps it is unsurprising, then, that most voters continue to support the U.S. paying its assessments for the UN regular budget (67% favor) and for the UN peacekeeping budget (65% favor) on time and in full.