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A new online digest published by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) offers the most comprehensive source of aggregated and analyzed public opinion data on international issues accessible to the public. Public Opinion on Global Issues synthesizes more than one hundred American and global public opinion surveys conducted over the past decade by many of the world’s premier research organizations and analyzes them along ten major issue areas: terrorism, nuclear proliferation, the environment, energy security, the global economy, economic development, human rights, world order, and violent conflict.
Developed by CFR’s International Institutions and Global Governance (IIGG) program in partnership with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland, the digest is also unique in juxtaposing American and global public opinion, thereby revealing those areas where American attitudes either diverge from, or align with, those of the global majority. For example, it finds:
"Compared to many Europeans, the American public is slightly more inclined to countenance the use of military force and other coercive methods by the United Nations and multilateral alliances. Americans also show slightly greater skepticism than residents of other developed nations about international regulation, for instance in international finance or climate change, and they reveal relatively more trust in the private sector."
"This project breaks new ground," says IIGG Director Stewart M. Patrick. "By offering a bird’s eye view of where the global populace stands on the issues we all face, this digest can better inform policymakers’ approach to the central challenges of the twenty-first century."
The digest’s findings also include:
- Nuclear Proliferation: Large majorities around the world, including in countries with nuclear arms, favor an international agreement to eliminate all nuclear weapons, with stringent inspection provisions. Publics worldwide also favor a new United Nations (UN) regime that would stop new countries from creating nuclear fuel, and instead supply them with the fuel they need for energy production. Publics in the United States and other countries polled support the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and most also favor the UN Security Council having the right to authorize military force to prevent a country from acquiring nuclear weapons.
- The United Nations: Publics around the globe believe that the UN plays a positive international role, although they are often disappointed by the UN’s actual performance and support its reform. Publics around the world believe the UN Security Council has not only the right but also the responsibility to prevent or end gross human rights abuses such as genocide. Majorities or pluralities in all nations polled want the UN to actively promote human rights-and they reject the argument that this would be improper interference in sovereign affairs.
- World Trade: International polls find strong support for globalization, tempered with anxiety that its pace is too fast. Majorities in most countries view international trade as positive for their nation, support the World Trade Organization (WTO), and believe their government should comply with adverse WTO decisions. At the same time, overwhelming majorities support the inclusion of labor and environmental standards in trade agreements.
- Global Finance: In the wake of the global recession, publics in most countries around the world-with the exception of the United States-strongly support the idea of a global regulatory body to ensure that big financial institutions follow international standards. Assessments of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund are mildly positive in most (though not all) countries.
- Climate Change: In every international poll, majorities in all countries, including the United States, say that global warming is a threat, action needs to be taken, and such an adjustment will entail lifestyle changes in their own country. Majorities in developing as well as developed countries think that developing countries have a responsibility to limit their emissions in an effort to deal with climate change.
- World Order: Publics around the world-including in the United States-are strongly internationalist in orientation. They believe that global challenges are simply too complex and daunting to be addressed by unilateral or even regional means. In every country polled, most people support a global system based on the rule of law, international treaties, and robust multilateral institutions. Large majorities, including among Americans, reject a hegemonic role for the United States, but do want the United States to participate in multilateral efforts to address international issues.
The Council on Foreign Relations is an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher dedicated to being a resource for its members, government officials, business executives, journalists, educators and students, civic and religious leaders, and other interested citizens in order to help them better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries.
The International Institutions and Global Governance (IIGG) program at the Council on Foreign Relations aims to identify the institutional requirements for effective multilateral cooperation in the twenty-first century.