Newsroom / Press Release

New Opinion Research Shows American Voters Reject “Going It Alone”


Washington, D.C. (Aug. 27, 2008) — The United Nations Foundation and its sister organization, the Better World Campaign, released today the results of a six-month public opinion research project indicating shifts in the issues Americans are concerned about internationally and the approach they want the United States to take. The research shows a sharp swing in public concern about international economic issues (dependence on foreign oil and trade) a dramatic decline in the landscape of foreign policy and national security concerns and a new national security agenda and outlook that is significantly different from the one in the period after 9/11.

“An underlying shift is occurring in American attitudes regarding the international role and priorities of the United States. Voters across the party spectrum understand that America’s reputation has faltered, and believe this is a problem for the nation that needs attention and repair,” said Timothy E. Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation. “Both dependence on foreign oil and strengthening the global economy have skyrocketed, displacing terrorism at the top of voters’ international concerns.”

Concern is also growing over America’s dependence upon foreign oil across the political spectrum. Of those asked, 67% feel America’s dependence on foreign oil is the number one international concern. Global economic and trade issues ranks below that, pushing terrorism down the list of concerns, as compared to similar polling conducted by the UN Foundation and Better World Campaign last fall.

“To advance these and other issues, our research shows that Americans overwhelmingly support policies that promote a balance of military strength and diplomacy, and to prioritize international cooperation, instead of going it alone to advance our interests,” said Wirth.

Seventy-six percent of Republicans and Democrats and 70% of swing voters selected “a balance of toughness and diplomacy” as one of the top three attributes of the next president. Both Republicans (86%) and swing voters (74%) also chose keeping “America safe and secure” as a top attribute. Working with organizations such as the United Nations and with other countries to tackle global terrorism was a priority attribute for Democrats (73%).

Key highlights of the research include:

  • The overwhelming majority of American voters believe that America’s reputation has suffered in the world. 78% of all voters believe the United States is less respected by other countries than it has been in the past.
  • 80% of voters believe that working with major allies, and through international organizations, is a wiser strategy for achieving U.S. international affairs goals.

The research, undertaken by a bipartisan polling team led by Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies and Geoff Garin of Peter D. Hart Research Associates, is the second round of an extensive two-year effort involving polling and focus group work. In 2008, Public Opinion Strategies and Peter D. Hart Research conducted two surveys on behalf of the United Nations Foundation. A national telephone survey conducted July 16-20, 2008 among 800 registered voters (MOE = +3.46%). A national internet survey conducted July 16-21, 2008 among 1,600 registered voters (with four national replicate subsets of 400 registered voters). (MOE on 1,600 = +2.45%, MOE N=400 = +4.9%).

For additional background on the research, visit

About the Better World Campaign

The Better World Campaign (BWC), an initiative of the Better World Fund, works to strengthen the relationship between the United States and the United Nations through outreach, communications, and advocacy. It encourages U.S. leadership to enhance the UN’s ability to carry out its invaluable international work on behalf of peace, progress, freedom, and justice. In these efforts, BWC engages policymakers, the media, and the American public to increase awareness of and support for the United Nations. For more information, visit

About the United Nations Foundation

The United Nations Foundation is an advocate for the UN and a platform for connecting people, ideas, and capital to help the United Nations solve global problems.  We build partnerships, grow constituencies, mobilize resources and advocate policy changes to support the UN’s work for individual and global progress. The UN Foundation’s work – focused on select global problems – is decreasing child mortality, improving disaster relief, protecting diverse cultures and environments, creating a clean energy future, empowering women and girls, and improving U.S.-UN relations. For more information, visit

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