Gallup: People say it’s important. So why aren’t they getting it?

A recent survey by Gallup shows just what Americans think about the U.S. position in the world and what is vital to America.

When asked “how important do you think what happens in each of the following countries is to the United States today,” the percentage of people who answered “Vitally Important” or “Important but not vital” showed a marked interest in these countries.

  • Afghanistan: 81%
  • Canada: 77%
  • China: 92%
  • Cuba: 72%
  • India: 77%
  • Mexico: 84%
  • North Korea: 83%
  • Pakistan: 79%
  • Venezuela: 67%

Please note that Cuba and Venezuela showed the lowest amount of importance, despite the shrill sounds coming from certain politicians.

In December 2010  people were asked Do you think the United States does or does not have a special responsibility to be the leading nation in world affairs?

  • Yes, has special responsibility: 66%
  • No, does not: 31%
  • No opinion: 3%

In February 2008, Gallup asked about building democracy in other countries.

  • Very important: 24%
  • Somewhat important: 43%
  • Not too important: 22%
  • Not important at all: 10%
  • No opinion: 2%
Two-thirds of the American people think the United States has a special responsibility to be a leading nation in world affairs. Another two-thirds think it is important to help build democracies in other countries.
Please explain, if you can, why almost that same percentage — 65% — in February 2009 say the United States spends too much on foreign aid.
  • Too little: 6%
  • About the right amount: 21%
  • Too much: 65%
  • No opinion: 8%

Maybe because the American people really have no idea how much is really spent of foreign aid. Most Americans think 25% of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid.

FYI: All of the non-military foreign affairs budget — that is the State Department, foreign development assistance, commercial affairs, agriculture, international law enforcement/training, etc. accounts for about 1% of the total US budget. And that number has been pretty consistent for several years.

I am not surprised at the split personality results of the people wanting to have the US play a major role in the world but not being willing to pay for it. We see that same issue in domestic policy. But at least in domestic issues there are thousands of words written to discuss the issues, the costs and the conflicts.

Unfortunately in foreign affairs the word count is much lower and what does appear usually does not make it to most medium or small media markets.

The American people in all parts of the country want information about what is happening around the world. They want to know how those global events affect them in their towns and states. In my journalism classes, I told my students that telling people why a story was important to them is called context.

Unfortunately we are missing not only the stories but more importantly the context of those stories that do get published/aired.

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