There are huge gaps between the preferences of ordinary Americans and those of the foreign policy elite, according to a new pair of matched surveys by the Pew Research Center.
Ninety-five percent of the foreign policy professionals say the country would gain from greater immigration of skilled professionals, but that view is shared by only 45 percent of Americans with some college education, and by only 38 percent of Americans who did not go to college.
The poll showed that 68 percent of foreign policy professionals, but only 39 percent of the public, believe the government’s extensive surveillance programs make Americans safer, according to the report, which was released Wednesday.
The survey, dubbed “America’s Place in the World” is based on two polls of the public and of foreign policy experts.
The public poll included responses from 2,003 Americans, who were interviewed from Oct. 30 to Nov. 6.
The second poll quizzed 1,838 members of the Council on Foreign Relations, and was conducted from early October to early November.
The poll contained some demoralizing news for the foreign policy experts.
“For the first time in surveys dating back nearly 40 years, a majority (53%)[of the public] says the United States plays a less important and powerful role as a world leader than it did a decade ago,” says Pew.
That 53 percent negative score has increased by 12 points since 2009, and by 33 points since 2004.
Worse, the poll showed that 52 percent of the public believes the U.S. “should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.” Only 38 percent opposed the statement, which lowers the importance of the foreign policy community.
However, 66 percent of the public reported that a greater U.S role in the international economy is a “good thing because it exposes the U.S. to new markets and opportunities for growth.”
The poll also showed a broadly negative assessment of Obama’s foreign policy record, with 41 percent approval and 53 percent disapproval.
The negative reaction was much higher on many specific issues, such as relations with China and Syria, and on immigration policy, where Obama has 32 percent approval and 60 percent disapproval.
Seventy-two percent of the foreign-policy professionals backed greater low-skill immigration, which was almost twice the level of support among Americans without college degrees,
The polls, however, are skewed by factors not highlighted by the authors.
For example, 62 percent of Republicans and 49 percent of independents, but only 38 percent of Democrats, think reducing illegal immigration should be a top priority, according to the poll.
The partisan gap also appears when the public was asked if additional low-skill labor would help the economy. “More than half of Democrats (53%) say this is the case, compared with 31% of Republicans and 42% of independents,” said the survey.