Democrats and Republicans have increasingly sharp differences over whether the United States needs the support of its allies or the United Nations before going to war, with Democrats often as supportive of international institutions as Europeans, according to survey of 11,000 people in the United States and 10 European countries to be released today.
The poll, sponsored by the German Marshall Fund, echoes other recent surveys showing a continuing decline in the U.S. image abroad, but it also is revealing about the widening partisan gap over how the United States should conduct foreign and military policy.
Asked whether it was essential to secure the approval of the United Nations before using military force, 81 percent of Democrats said yes, and 69 percent of Republicans said no, according to the poll. Moreover, the gap between Democrats and Republicans over whether NATO was still essential to U.S. security had widened dramatically over two years, from a spread of 3 to 16 percent, according to Craig Kennedy, president of the German Marshall Fund.
"Republicans have pulled away from the United Nations and NATO," Kennedy said, while "Democrats are showing a much stronger inclination toward the United Nations." He said the "Democratic numbers are closer to the center and even to the left of the European spectrum."
The poll also found that Europeans are skeptical of a strong U.S. leadership role in the world, with a majority seeking a more independent approach for Europe on foreign and military policy. Europeans strongly disagree with the Bush administration's foreign policy, with 76 percent expressing disapproval, up from 56 percent two years ago.
Even Poland and Italy, two countries that had supported the Bush approach, have turned negative in the past year, Kennedy said. "Europeans have decided they want to be treated as an equal partner with the United States," he said.
Interestingly, clear majorities in France, Germany and Spain -- whose governments oppose deploying troops in Iraq -- would back sending troops as part of a U.N.-mandated peacekeeping force, though support fell if those troops would be under U.S. command, the survey found.
In the U.S. portion of the survey, the growing Democratic-Republican split was evident in a number of questions. Sixty-two percent of Republicans strongly agreed it was justified to bypass the United Nations when the country's vital interests were threatened, compared with 18 percent of Democrats; 33 percent of Democrats strongly disagreed.
Similarly, 63 percent of Republicans strongly agreed that military action to eliminate terrorist organizations is the most appropriate way to fight terrorism, compared with 23 percent of Democrats.
Seventy-seven percent of Democrats said it was essential to win the approval of key Europeans before using military force in a future situation similar to Iraq, while Republicans split on that question; 48 percent said it was not essential and 46 percent said it was.
Separately, the University of Maryland released a poll surveying support for Bush's foreign policy in 35 countries, with majorities or pluralities in 30 countries saying Bush's approach had made them feel worse about the United States.
The survey, which was piggybacked on commercial polls for a Canadian company called GlobeScan, also found that only one in five people in countries surveyed overseas supported Bush for reelection over Democratic challenger John F. Kerry. The surveys, however, were a mix of telephone, face-to-face and Internet polls, with some conducted only in urban areas, and with large percentages in many countries not providing a response on the choice between Bush and Kerry.