This post originally ran on Juan Cole’s website.

A new NORC/ AP poll, done before the Iran deal was announced by President Obama, shows how out of touch most of the presidential candidates are on foreign policy public opinion.

The American public just doesn’t want more involvement overseas. To be exact, a third of Americans want less involvement overseas and a third is satisfied with the amount we have. Only about a fourth wants a more pro-active foreign policy.


That speech GOP presidential Marco Rubio made [Friday] about how wrong President Obama’s policies are on Cuba and Iran? Those weren’t the high items on the public’s list. Only a third even care what the president’s position is on Cuba. Something over two-thirds did care about the president’s policies toward Iran. But that issue was less on their minds than terrorism and Daesh (ISIS, ISIL). Respectively, 90% and 86% wanted to know the prospective president’s position on terrorism and Daesh.

Americans are enthusiastic about using diplomacy and economic tools to promote US interests abroad. The only times they really want to see military action is in defense of the US and its allies from a terrorist attack, or to stop a country blowing up an atomic bomb.

The public is desperately uninterested in military democracy promotion of the sort the Bush administration said it was doing in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it isn’t really happy about deploying military tools for virtually any non-defensive goal.

Listening especially to the GOP candidates, you hear a lot of saber-rattling of a sort this poll says most Americans don’t approve of. You hear a lot of talk of issues like Cuba, about which they couldn’t care less. You hear a lot of trashing of diplomacy, but the American public really likes the idea of achieving goals through diplomatic means. With a couple of exceptions, the US public is far more sensible than the people who say they want to lead it.

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