Historically, Public Has Given Low Priority to Promoting Democracy Overseas

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Americans like the idea of their government promoting democracy in other nations. But democracy promotion has historically lagged far behind other objectives among the public's long-term foreign policy goals.

In the most recent "America's Place in the World" survey, conducted in November 2009, just 21% said promoting democracy abroad should be a top long-range priority for U.S. foreign policy. Democracy promotion ranked last on a list of 11 long-term foreign policy objectives. The most widely shared goals -- protecting the nation against terrorist attacks and protecting the jobs of American workers -- were cited by 85% each.

In 2005, during the Bush administration, 24% said promoting democracy abroad should be a top priority. Comparable percentages expressed this view in the "America's Place in the World" surveys conducted in early September 2001, shortly before the 9/11 attacks (29%), 1997 (22%), and 1993 (22%)....

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