NEW POLL: 3 in 4 Americans want troops home from Afghanistan, Iraq; favor less defense spending, less military engagement abroad

ARLINGTON, Va.—A new YouGov poll commissioned by the Charles Koch Institute shows Americans are strongly supportive of bringing our troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq, want the United States to spend less on defense, and generally want a more realist American foreign policy.

Will Ruger, vice president of research and policy at the Charles Koch Institute had this to say about the poll’s findings:

“Given how polarized the country is on so many other issues, it is striking how unified Americans are on ending our endless wars in the Middle East, prioritizing domestic concerns over foreign ones, and avoiding greater military engagement in conflicts overseas. After nearly 20 years of costly and often unnecessary military engagement abroad along with the current challenges facing our country at home, it is a positive sign that the American public increasingly wants to see the United States pursue a more realist foreign policy.”

The poll, which comes as President Trump continues to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, shows broad support for military withdrawal from the Middle East, with roughly three-quarters of respondents in favor of bringing our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan – 74% and 76% total support respectively, an increase of seven percentage points each from a similar poll conducted in January of this year.

In general, respondents favored a more realist and restrained approach to American foreign policy and defense spending:

  • A plurality (48%) think the US should be less militarily engaged in the world. Only 7% think we should be more engaged.
  • A plurality (37%) think we should decrease Pentagon spending, compared with only 13% who think it should be increased. When a separate set of respondents was presented with the same question but with an initial sentence laying out the bleak national debt picture, the numbers rise significantly, with roughly half (49%) believing we should decrease Pentagon spending, and only 8% thinking we should increase it.
  • When asked which the U.S. should prioritize, foreign policy issues or domestic issues, 75% of respondents agreed domestic issues should be the priority.

ABOUT YOUGOV AND SURVEY METHODOLOGY

YouGov is an international research, data, and analytics group headquartered in London with a proprietary web-based panel of over 8 million people globally.

YouGov interviewed 2,000 respondents from July 24-27, 2020. The respondents were matched to a sampling frame on gender, age, race, and education using the full 2016 American Community Survey, weighted to the sampling frame using propensity scores. The resulting weights were then post-stratified on 2016 Presidential vote choice, and a four-way stratification of gender, age (4-categories), race (4-categories), and education (4-categories), to produce the final weight. The weight-adjusted margin of error is 2.5%.

TOPLINE RESULTS

NOTE: For the questions in italics, roughly half of the respondents were given question A and the other half were given question B.

  1. Which sentence do you agree with most? (n=1,998)

75%     The U.S. should prioritize domestic issues over foreign policy issues.

6%       The U.S. should prioritize foreign policy issues over domestic issues.

19%     Don’t know

  1. Do you believe the United States should be more or less militarily engaged in conflicts around the world? (n=1,998)

7%       More engaged

32%     About the same level of engagement

48%     Less engaged

13%     Don’t know

  1. Do you support or oppose bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq? (n=2,000)

44%     Strongly support

30%     Somewhat support

9%       Somewhat oppose

2%       Strongly oppose

15%     Don’t know

  1. Do you support or oppose bringing U.S. troops home from Afghanistan? (n=2,000)

46%     Strongly support

30%     Somewhat support

7%       Somewhat oppose

3%       Strongly oppose

15%     Don’t know

5A. Do you think the U.S. should increase or decrease the number of U.S. troops stationed in Europe? (n=996)

4%       Increase

40%     Keep the level the same

36%     Decrease

20%     Don’t know

5B. Do you think the U.S. should increase or decrease the number of U.S. troops stationed in Germany? (n=1,004)

4%       Increase

40%     Keep the level the same

33%     Decrease

23%     Don’t know

  1. Which of the following should the United States do when it comes to spending on aid to foreign countries? (n=2,000)

10%     Increase spending

46%     Decrease spending

24%     Keep spending levels about the same

19%     Don’t know

7A. Which of the following should the United States do when it comes to spending by the Pentagon? (n=1,001)

13%     Increase spending

37%     Decrease spending

28%     Keep spending levels about the same

22%     Don’t know

7B. As you might know, the U.S. national debt is more than $23 trillion and likely to rise above $25 trillion this year. Which of the following should the United States do when it comes to spending by the Pentagon? (n=997)

8%       Increase spending

49%     Decrease spending

23%     Keep spending levels about the same

20%     Don’t know

8A. Do you think China is a military threat to the United States? (n=994)

59%     Yes, China is a military threat

18%     No, China is not a military threat

23%     Don’t know

8B. Do you think China is a military threat to the territory of the United States? (n=1,006)

56%     Yes, China is a military threat

24%     No, China is not a military threat

20%     Don’t know

  1. Do you think Iran is a military threat to the territory of the United States? (n=2,000)

48%     Yes, Iran is a military threat

31%     No, Iran is not a military threat

21%     Don’t know

  1. China and India are currently involved in a dispute along a mountainous border. If China and India escalate the conflict and go to war, should the United States directly intervene militarily? (n=2,000)

12%     Yes, the U.S. should militarily defend India

3%       Yes, the U.S. should militarily defend China

62%     No, the U.S. should not intervene militarily

24%     Don’t know

  1. If China blockaded Taiwan, preventing all shipping getting to Taiwan, should the United States use military force to break the blockade even if that risked a war with China? (n=2,000)

27%     Yes, the U.S. should use military force to break the blockade

39%     No, the U.S. should not use military force to break the blockade

34%     Don’t know

  1. If China invaded Taiwan, should the United States defend Taiwan militarily even if that meant a war with China? (n=2,000)

30%     Yes, the U.S. should use military force to intervene to protect Taiwan

36%     No, the U.S. should not use military force to intervene to protect Taiwan

35%     Don’t know

  1. NATO, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is a military alliance of European and North American countries founded after World War II to defend against the Soviet Union. Do you think NATO is more or less relevant to today’s world than it was 70 years ago? (n=2,000)

15%     Much more relevant

14%     Slightly more relevant

27%     Slightly less relevant

20%     Much less relevant

23%     Don’t know

  1. Do you think that NATO should expand to include Ukraine in the alliance and provide it with a security guarantee that effectively means the U.S. will militarily defend Ukraine if Ukraine is attacked? (n=2,000)

39%     Yes, NATO should be expanded to include Ukraine

20%     No, NATO should not be expanded to include Ukraine

41%     Don’t know

  1. And finally, which sentence do you agree with most: (n=1,999)

30%     Retired military officers should play more of a role in politics.

24%     Retired military officers should play less of a role in politics.

46%     Don’t know

 

For media requests, please contact: 
Lucia Weathers
lucia.weathers@charleskochinstitute.org

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