Public Release: 

New survey on Americans' foreign policy priorities

Terrorism and the Islamic State most frequently named as 1 of the top foreign policy issues facing the next president

NORC at the University of Chicago

Americans favor diplomatic and economic strategies over military involvement in foreign policy, according to a new national survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Americans also question whether or not the United States should be the world's chief problem solver, even as a myriad of issues across the globe are identified as important for the next president to address. The nationwide poll of 1,167 adults collected data from June 25 to July 7 using AmeriSpeak, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Interviews were conducted online and using landlines and cell phones.

"This survey indicates that Americans are aware of the many foreign policy issues facing the country--everything from terrorism, to environmental issues, to foreign trade--but there is very little support for their country shouldering more of the responsibility to solve them all," said Trevor Tompson, director of The AP-NORC Center.

Some of the poll's key findings include:

  • International terrorism and the Islamic State were most frequently named as one of the top foreign policy issues facing the next president. More than half of those surveyed said it was extremely important to know how the next president plans to deal with these issues.

  • Only about a quarter of the public would like to see the United States take a bigger role in resolving problems around the world; most would prefer that the United States be less active or maintain its current level of involvement.

  • At the same time, large numbers support the use of military force to protect the United States from international terrorism, halt nuclear proliferation, or help defend allies under attack. However, most people oppose military action to promote democracy, defend human rights abroad, or safeguard American economic interests.

  • While most Americans do not think military intervention is the right response to threats to American financial interests overseas or human rights issues in other countries, economic pressure is supported as a method to deal with these problems. The public also supports economic pressure to deal with international terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and aggression against an ally.

  • Furthermore, large majorities consider diplomacy a resource to deal with all these issues: international terrorism, nuclear proliferation, defending allies, protecting economic interests abroad, and international human rights, as well as promoting democracy.


About AmeriSpeak Omnibus

AmeriSpeak Omnibus is a once-a-month, multi-client survey using a probability sample of at least 1,000 nationally representative adults age 18 and older. Respondents are interviewed online and by phone from NORC's AmeriSpeak panel--the most scientifically rigorous multi-client household panel in the United States. AmeriSpeak households are selected randomly from NORC's National Sample Frame, the industry leader in sample coverage. The National Frame is representative of over 99 percent of U.S. households and includes additional coverage of hard-to-survey population segments, such as rural and low-income households, that are underrepresented in other sample frames. More information about AmeriSpeak is available at

About the Survey

Respondents were interviewed online and by phone from NORC's AmeriSpeak panel. The overall margin of sampling error is +/- 4.5 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level, including the design effect. The margin of sampling error may be higher for subgroups. A full description of the study methodology can be found at

About The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research

The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research taps into the power of social science research and the highest-quality journalism to bring key information to people across the nation and throughout the world.

The Associated Press is the essential global news network, delivering fast, unbiased news from every corner of the world to all media platforms and formats. Founded in 1846, AP today is the most trusted source of independent news and information. On any given day, more than half the world's population sees news from AP.

NORC at the University of Chicago delivers objective data and meaningful analysis to help decision-makers and leading organizations make informed choices and identify new opportunities. Since 1941, NORC has applied sophisticated methods and tools, innovative and cost-effective solutions, and the highest standards of scientific integrity and quality to conduct and advance research on critical issues. Today, NORC expands on this tradition by partnering with government, business, and nonprofit clients to create deep insight across a broad range of topics and to disseminate useful knowledge throughout society. Headquartered in downtown Chicago, NORC works in over 40 countries around the world, with additional offices on the University of Chicago campus, the DC metro area, Atlanta, Boston, and San Francisco.

The two organizations have established The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research to conduct, analyze, and distribute social science research in the public interest on newsworthy topics, and to use the power of journalism to tell the stories that research reveals.

Contact: For more information, contact Eric Young for NORC at or (703) 217-6814 (cell); Ray Boyer for NORC at or (312) 330-6433; or Paul Colford for AP at or

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