With the once-ambitious Build Back Better bill scaled back and stalled, multiple looming foreign policy crises, and lingering social and economic ills that Joe Biden’s presidency seems determined to leave unanswered, we’re hungry for good news these days – this. So rest assured: the American public’s appetite for war is still remarkably low, despite the best efforts of its elite.
A recent poll from YouGov and the Charles Koch Institute found that a strong plurality of Americans oppose a war against Russia over Ukraine, with 48% of respondents somewhat or strongly opposed (the latter position taking most), and only 27% in favor, barely 9% “strongly” therefore. This is a pretty astonishing result, given not only the pro-war orientation among politicians and the media with regard to this particular crisis, but years of attempts to stir up conflict between the two countries since 2016.
Russia and Ukraine are not the only area where we see this. A similar bipartisan push to demonize China and pledge to go to war if Taiwan’s sovereignty is threatened has succeeded in getting more Americans to see China as a threat, but it didn’t particularly get them excited about the idea of war with the country.
the Reagan Foundation survey 2021 found that, when it comes to potential responses to a hypothetical Chinese invasion of Taiwan, the most popular are non-military options like recognition of Taiwanese independence (71%) and economic sanctions (66%) , with an increase in arms sales (44%) and the sending of land to the less favored troops (40 percent). And although a no-fly zone has increased by 8 points in popularity (50%) since 2019, it’s unclear how well the public actually understands what it is. clever understatement actually involves.
To be fair, you can find some different results at the Chicago Council on World Affairs, which found that a slim majority of Americans (52%) would for the first time support sending American troops if China invaded Taiwan. (A record 59% also supported the same in the event of a Russian invasion by a NATO ally, which Ukraine is not.) Including polarization and the COVID-19 pandemic, as more worrying than threats from outside the country, findings that match the findings of the more anti-war YouGov / Koch survey.
Likewise, despite one of the most aggressive pro-war media campaigns In recent memory, American public opinion still supports the withdrawal from Afghanistan, either in the form of a strong plurality (47% according to the Reagan Foundation) or a large majority (64% of Chicago Council respondents). There, the best efforts of the Washington establishment to manipulate public opinion and keep the war going have been an unambiguous failure.
These results indicate the decrease in the news of alarmist foreign affairs as a political tool. While there are periods in US history when external threats to national security have been effective political rallying cries – the early years of the Cold War and the post 9/11 era are coming. mind – we seem to be drifting from that style of politics right now, even with the avalanche of propaganda aimed at reversing this trend.
As Stephen Semler has pointed out, Biden’s attempts to use China’s specter to sell his national agenda have failed, without inspiring public mobilization for his legislative agenda or pressuring Republicans in Congress for it. to support. As even the Chicago Council, firmly aligned with Biden, admits, Americans “don’t seem to make a connection between improvements in infrastructure at home and the benefits of American influence abroad,” ranking him near the bottom. actions that would help maintain American influence in the world.
We saw something similar during the Donald Trump years, when Democratic attempts to design multiple foreign policy-based crises to undermine his presidency – the “Russiagate” and “Ukraine-gate” sagas, in particular – failed gravely. From beginning to end, voters simply didn’t care on the first, while impeachment on the second sent his approval rating to a all time record. Aside from his last days in power, Trump worst approval rating arrived in December 2017, when he was busy pushing through his plutocratic tax cuts.
Nothing is ever guaranteed in politics, and just because public attitudes are always remarkably opposed to war in the face of a relentless barrage of hawkish propaganda does not mean that it will always remain so. But the fact that the powerful pro-war establishment factions are having a harder time shaking the dog these days is worth applauding.