Few Americans want US more involved in current wars in Ukraine and Gaza: AP-NORC poll

AP , Thursday 7 Mar 2024

As the US navigates involvement in the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, few Americans want the country to take a more active role in solving the world’s problems, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Gaza war
A picture taken from Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on March 6, 2024 shows an Israeli army tank moving along the border area. AFP


While an American role as the “world’s policeman” has become an increasingly contentious partisan issue, a majority of both Democrats and Republicans agree that the US should not get more involved than it currently is in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the Israeli war on Gaza.

The poll shows that 4 in 10 US adults want America to broadly take a “less active” role in solving global conflicts. Only about one-quarter think the US should take a more active role, and about one-third say its current role is about right.

The findings underscore the difficult dynamics that both President Joe Biden and the likely Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, face in the leadup to next November’s election. Significant swaths of the electorate are frustrated by the searing images of the growing humanitarian crisis in Israel's five month war on Gaza and the hefty costs already incurred by the US in helping Ukraine fend off Russia’s invasion.

The Biden administration has become increasingly blunt in recent days in pressing Israel and Hamas to come to terms for a cease-fire that would last at least six weeks and would facilitate the release of dozens of Israeli captives held in Gaza in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

Just two decades ago, GOP leaders were calling for Americans to embrace the “ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” Now, while few US adults on either side of the aisle want the nation to take a more active position, Republicans, at 53 percent, are roughly twice as likely as Democrats, at 25 percent, to say the country should have less active involvement abroad. About half (52 percent) of Democrats say the US's current position is “about right.”

Many Republicans cite America’s bloody and futile history of intervention in countries like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I feel like there’s a lot of conflicts that we’ve been involved in that don’t ever have any positive results,” Kurt Bunde, a Republican from Idaho, told AP. “We might have good intentions. We might feel obligated to protect our allies’ interests, but the results speak for themselves.”

Where the US should be focusing its international military resources is also a subject of debate, with Republicans and Democrats disagreeing over whether the nation should be taking a more active role in the war between Ukraine and Russia or the Israeli war on Gaza.

Among US adults overall, there isn’t much appetite for a more active role in either conflict: Only about 2 in 10 US adults say the US should be taking a more active role in each war. For each, about 4 in 10 say the current role is about right, and 36 percent say the US needs to take a step back.

But Republicans and independents are more likely than Democrats to say that the US should dial down its support for Ukraine. About half of Republicans and independents want the US to take a less active role in the war between Ukraine and Russia, compared to only 18 percent of Democrats.

Since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his war on Ukraine more than two years ago, the US has sent $111 billion in weapons, equipment, humanitarian assistance and other aid to Ukraine. A $95 billion package of aid is now languishing in Congress due to Republican opposition as Ukrainian soldiers begin to ration ammunition.

“America is spread thin like everywhere, and we need to take care of our own first,” Matt Wood, a Republican from Kentucky, said in an interview. “Then, if we can, if we have the resources available, then we can help other countries.”

Half of Democrats say the US’s current role in the Russia-Ukraine war is about right, and 30 percent want a more active role. Across the board, Democrats are more likely to favor US intervention in Ukraine: Nearly 6 in 10 think it’s very or extremely important for the US to provide aid to Ukraine’s military to fight Russia or negotiate a permanent cease-fire between Russia and Ukraine, while only 24 percent of Republicans prioritize more military aid and 41 percent of Republicans say it’s extremely or very important for the US to help broker a permanent ceasefire.

“I think that we have to take some responsibility just because of the effect of our power and the amount of wealth we have,” Christina Taylor, a Maryland Democrat, said. “I think for us to decrease our responsibilities or to decrease our interest in other countries is against the kind of country we are.”

Even though aid to Israel usually receives bipartisan support in Congress — and is often a priority for GOP politicians — about 4 in 10 Republicans think the US should take a less active role in the Israel's Gaza war.

“I really think it’s none of us our business because it’s Israel’s war,” Donna Cole, a Missouri Republican, told AP. “The only role that the United States should have is to bring back any Americans who are hostages.”

She added, “But we should not be putting restraints on Israel or, for that matter, restraints on the Palestinians.”

About half of Democrats think the US's current role in the Israeli war on Gaza is about right, while the rest are split on whether the US should take a more or less active role. Independents are slightly more likely than members of either political party to say the US should take a less active role, and only 11 percent want the US to be more involved.

There are large partisan divides, too, on the kind of aid that the US should provide in Israel's Gaza war. About one-third of Republicans think it’s extremely or very important for the US to provide aid to Israel’s military, compared to 20 percent of Democrats. On the other hand, about 6 in 10 Democrats say it’s extremely or very important for the US to help negotiate a permanent cease-fire and provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, while 34 percent of Republicans prioritize US help with a cease-fire and 15 percent of Republicans think it’s important for the US to provide humanitarian aid.

Taylor, who is a nurse, said that the only active role the US should be taking in Israel's Gaza war is pushing back on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's and his government's military assault on Gaza.

“We’re not doing enough to push the Israelis to lighten up a little bit because I think they’re overstepping,” Taylor said.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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