The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is out with their survey of American perceptions of the United States' role in the world, Global Views 2010. The takeaway from they survey is that a majority of Americans think the United States role in global affairs is diminishing, but surprisingly they're ok with that. Only a quarter of Americans think that the US plays a larger role as the leader of the world than the country did ten years ago; while nine out of ten Americans think it is more important to focus on fixing domestic problems than for America to try to solve problems abroad. More than two-thirds of Americans also thought the rise of aspiring global powers like Turkey and Brazil was a good thing since essentially it would mean that there would be other countries to help in dealing with global crises.
What's really interesting about these results is that they seem to fly in the face of the dominant thought among American politicians – namely that Americans expect the United States to play the role of the “sole superpower” and the world's policeman - the country that guarantees law and order around the world. As a result, much of our foreign policy today is based around this idea, along with fear on the part of our political leaders of doing anything that would take America away from this role in the eyes of the American public. For example, at the core of arguments about why the United States must remain engaged in Afghanistan is this belief that if the US were to end the mission there before achieving “victory” (whatever that means) it would mean a loss of global prestige that the American people wouldn't stand for.
Yet the Global Views 2010 survey indicates that Americans would stand for a diminished leadership role for the United States on the world stage, in fact many would seem to prefer it if it then meant that we would be able to concentrate on resolving pressing domestic issues.
Other interesting results from the survey were a decided lack of support for a military strike by the United States against Iran to try to stop their nuclear research program (only 18% were in favor), along with a widespread belief that an American military strike would result in terrorist attacks against US interests in retaliation. A majority also believed that if Israel launched an airstrike against Iran the United States should not engage in military action against Iran in support of Israel.