Pew has an important poll out about attitudes of American regarding international issues, involvement and the Iraq War.
The public is feeling much better about how the war in Iraq is going these days, but at the same time has a sharply diminished appetite for U.S. efforts to deal with an array of global problems. Fewer people than at any point in this decade assign high priority to such foreign policy goals as preventing genocide, strengthening the United Nations, promoting and defending human rights, and reducing the global spread of AIDS and other infectious diseases.Take a close look at the Iraq bit:
There also is decreased support for an assertive national security policy. Fully 45% say that reducing U.S. overseas military commitments should be a top policy priority, up 10 points since 2004. Notably, even the goal of halting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction - a widely shared objective for nearly two decades - is now viewed as less important.
For the last several years we have been seeing this in poll after poll. No matter how well or poorly things go in Iraq, the lame duck disrespected and unpopular Republican President George Bush's war is seen as a mistake by the -vast- majority of the public. And whether it's going well or poorly, the public still wants troops home.
Discussions about the narrow question of The Surge™ miss the point, no matter how many times McCain brings it up tonight (if you are playing a drinking game with how many times he says Gen. Petraeus, please designate someone else to drive.) Just as with Bush, the most sustained unpopular President in polling history, the public has already made up its mind about Iraq.
Half of the public views the war as the wrong decision, while the same percentage favors withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq as soon as possible; these figures have declined only modestly in recent months. By contrast, there is strong public support for maintaining U.S. forces in Afghanistan - a notable exception to the broader trend against global engagement.However, the inward-looking tendency is somewhat pervasive. Bush's screwing up on the domestic front is every bit as important as his screwing up on the international front; cleaning up his mess will occupy us all for years to come. And this has an unexpected effect on the election, as well.
John McCain's consistent advantage over Barack Obama on foreign policy and national security may be limited to some extent by the public's focus on domestic issues.1 Notably, while swing voters say McCain could best deal with foreign policy by a 52% to 25% margin, they along with most Americans believe that the next president should focus on domestic issues rather than foreign policy. At the beginning of President Bush's second term, the public by 53% to 27% said it was more important for him to concentrate on domestic policy than foreign policy. That sentiment has swollen to a 60% to 21% margin when citizens are asked about what they want from their next president.Keep this in mind when the candidates debate foreign policy.