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America divided: 2015 Chicago Council Survey

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America Divided: Political Partisanship and US Foreign Policy

September 15, 2015

By: Dina Smeltz, Senior Fellow, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy; Ivo H. Daalder, President, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs; Karl Friedhoff, Fellow, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy; Craig Kafura, Research Associate

Executive Summary

The results of the 2015 Chicago Council Survey (PDF) demonstrate that the American public remains committed to engagement in the world—as it has been for the more than 40 years the Council has conducted its surveys. But on specific policies, public opinion often divides along party lines. At a fundamental level, these divergent views reflect differing interpretations of how the United States can most effectively advance its interests—whether through military or other means— in an increasingly volatile world.

Shared Concerns about US National Security

Americans again widely agree that the United States should be actively engaged abroad, with 64 percent of Americans saying the United States should play an active role in world affairs, an increase of six percentage points from last year. On this fundamental issue, Democrats and Republicans in the US public express similar views (Figure A). A majority of Independents agree, though a sizable minority (42%) thinks the United States should stay out of world affairs.

The 2015 survey results also reveal that the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) has had a marked impact on US public perceptions of the major threats to US security. American concern about Islamic fundamentalism has jumped 15 percentage points since the 2014 survey and is currently at the highest level since the 2002 survey—the first conducted after the attacks of September 11, 2001 (Figure B).

Political strategists David Axelrod and Alex Castellanos join Chicago Council President Ivo Daalder and Senior Fellow Dina Smeltz in a discussion on how the foreign policy statements of the nominees will affect the primaries and presidential election. How do candidates craft foreign policy platforms that appeal to their core party positions, which were highlighted in the 2015 Chicago Council Survey? (Oct 23,2015)



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