Monday, October 29, 2012

Pew Survey: US public wants less engagement in Middle East - except in Iran

by Salman Hameed

Sandy has made a mess in New York and New Jersey. We were spared except for high wind gusts. I'm also getting out of a grading black hole (grading 50 papers can break the human spirit :) ). So yes, a number of back-logged posts are coming up.

Here is a Pew survey from 10 days ago. It looks at the US public attitudes towards American foreign policy (this was done before the 3rd Presidential debate). For our interest here, let's focus on some of the opinions regarding the Middle East. So first of all, the optimism regarding the Arab Spring has cooled down considerably:

Actually I find interesting that around 35% of people think that the changes in the leadership in the Middle East would be bad for the US - and that number has not really changed. This is a bit in contrast to the political sound-bites as well as the way media has covered this issue. Because what we are left here is that about half of the respondents believe that the changes either will be good for the US or have no impact on the relations to the US. That is a rosier interpretation than we usually hear.

But what I find interesting is that a vast majority of the respondents in the US want less American involvement in the Middle East:

And yet, only 35% say that it is important for the US avoid a military conflict with Iran over the nuclear issue! Wow. I guess, that is not really considered involvement - especially, when the impact of war is far away. Even scarier - only 17% of Romney voters are against this military conflict and 78% wants to take a firmer stance:

So if Romney is elected (yikes!) at least he will know that he has a strong backing of his supporters to initiate a military conflict with Iran over the nuclear issue. Not that Obama's foreign policy has been great (the Noble Peace Laureate personally authorizes drone strikes on individuals), but a Romney presidency will potentially be scarier for the region.

Here is a recent BBC poll that residents in 20 out of 21 countries favor Obama over Romney. One exception: Pakistan (actually from the numbers it looks like Pakistanis don't want either of them elected).

Read the full Pew Report here and the BBC poll here.

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