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U.S. Opinion on International Institutions

November 19, 2009

Assessments of the United Nations as an Institution

A large majority of Americans believes that the United Nations (UN) plays a necessary role in the world and supports U.S. participation in the UN. Large majorities favor the United States working through the UN more than it does, even if this means the United States has to accept compromises. At the same time Americans have in recent years shown significant dissatisfaction with the UN’s performance in fulfilling its mission. This mixture of strong support for the UN in principle and dissatisfaction with its actual performance seems to contribute to surprisingly erratic overall evaluations of the UN as an institution. Download full chapter (PDF).

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Sources of Support for United Nations

U.S. public support for the United Nations appears to be derived from a perceived need for collective action to deal with global problems and from a belief in the efficiencies of collective action. Reservations appear to be related to performance issues. Download full chapter (PDF).

Adding New Permanent Members to United Nations Security Council

Polls have found U.S. public support for adding new countries as permanent members of the UN Security Council. Specifically, majorities of Americans support the inclusion of Germany, Japan, India, and Brazil, while they are divided on including South Africa. Download full chapter (PDF).

EU Seat in the UN Security Council

While most European nations favor having a single permanent seat on the UN Security Council even if it means replacing the permanent seats of the United Kingdom and France, the American public is opposed. Download full chapter (PDF).

Veto Override

There is robust support among Americans for giving the UN Security Council the power to override the veto of a permanent member if all other members are in favor of a resolution. Download full chapter (PDF).

Democratizing the United Nations

There is variable American public support for several proposed approaches to make the UN more democratically representative. Large majorities of Americans favor direct elections of their country’s UN representative to the General Assembly, as well as a new UN parliament with directly elected representatives, while a more modest majority favors giving non-governmental actors a formal role in the United Nations. Additionally, global support for these proposals is consistently stronger than American support. Download full chapter (PDF).

Views of the World Bank, IMF and WTO

In general, Americans express a positive view of the influence of international financial institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). While both get mildly positive ratings, the World Bank is more popular than the IMF. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has a fairly positive image among Americans, who support strengthening it. Respondents in the United States, as in most other nations, say that their government should comply with adverse WTO decisions. Download full chapter (PDF).

International Courts

A majority of Americans express confidence that the International Court of Justice would rule fairly and impartially in cases involving their country. A majority favors the United States accepting compulsory jurisdiction of the court. In addition, large majorities of Americans favor U.S. participation in the International Criminal Court (ICC), even when presented with the U.S. government argument against it, and large majorities favor trying terror suspects in the ICC. A modest majority favors sharing intelligence with the ICC. Download full chapter (PDF).

Creating New International Institutions

A majority of Americans favor creating new international institutions to monitor compliance with climate change treaties, to monitor global financial markets, to monitor the energy market, and to provide information about migration. Download full chapter (PDF).

General Support for NATO

Most Americans agree that NATO is still essential, think that it needs to be strengthened, and do not want to cut spending for it. Most also agree that Europe should have its own defense alliance. Large majorities agree that the United States should contribute troops to defend a NATO member that has been attacked. Download full chapter (PDF).

The European Union’s Role in the World

Americans perceive the European Union as playing a positive role in the world. Americans lean toward favoring the European Union becoming more powerful, though they do not favor it becoming as powerful as the United States. Download full chapter (PDF).

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