By Jon Cohen and Peyton M. Craighill
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 28, 2011; 8:02 PM
A growing number of Americans consider the accelerating trend toward globalization a bad thing for the United States. At the same time, a majority now sees being the world's No. 1 economic power as an important national goal.
Just over one-third of all Americans see the increasing interconnection of the global economy as a good thing, according to a new Washington Post poll conducted to coincide with the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.
The numbers mark a turnabout over the past decade. In 2001, six in 10 Americans said tightening economic ties were a positive development. That dropped to 42 percent in 2003 and now sits as 36 percent.
The decline in positive sentiment on globalization was broad-based but particularly notable among Republicans. The number of Republicans who see globalization as primarily beneficial decreased from 57 percent in 2001 to 27 percent today. The movement has been less dramatic - though still large - among Democrats and independents, down 22 points in 10 years.
There has also been a negative shift in the public's assessment of American competitiveness, compared with 20 years ago. Now, just over one-third of Americans give excellent or good ratings to the country's ability to vie successfully in the global economy.
The poll also shows a widespread sense that the closer ties among economies have a direct connection to what is happening in the United States, and that the durability of an interconnected world economy is the primary factor in global stability.
The fragility of the international economy is rated as the top threat to world stability by one-third of the public. Security concerns taken together, such as international terrorism and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, also rate as top threats for one-third of those polled. Fewer cite an "erosion of shared values" or global climate change as the single biggest threat.
Those global economic fears are evident in views of relations with China, increasingly seen as an economic threat. In a Washington Post-ABC News poll this month, 61 percent saw China as a threat to jobs and economic security. Half as many saw China as an opportunity for new markets and investments.
A clear challenge for the political leadership in the United States is the public's widespread dissatisfaction with the direction of the country and its overwhelmingly negative view of the state of the economy despite an upturn in macroeconomic indicators. Six in 10 say the country is on the wrong track, and 87 percent give a negative rating to the economy.
A general lack of confidence in President Obama and the newly empowered Republicans in Congress to make the right decisions for the country's economic future compounds the issue. One-third of all Americans - and nearly half of all political independents - have little or no confidence in either Obama or the Republican leadership on this issue.
Separately, 55 percent say they are not confident in Obama on the issue; 62 percent lack confidence in the Republicans in Congress.
The GOP might find less room for movement than Obama in making economic decisions. Even among their base supporters, nearly a third of Republicans are not confident in their Congress members' ability on this topic, with 68 percent expressing confidence. In contrast, Obama wins the confidence of 76 percent of Democrats and loses it among only 23 percent. Independents have higher confidence in Obama, at 37 percent, than in Republicans, at 28 percent.
This Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Jan. 13 to 17 among a random national sample of 1,000 adults living in the United States. Interviews were conducted by conventional and cellular telephone. Results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.