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A near-majority of Americans say the United States should become less active in world affairs, a dramatic change from the post-9/11 national environment and one that comes as President Barack Obama tries to juggle crises in the Middle East and the Ukraine.
In a new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll, 47 percent of respondents said the U.S. should dial down its activity in foreign affairs, versus 19 percent who said the country should be more active around the globe. Three in ten respondents said the current level is correct.
That represents a major flip in how Americans view world affairs since the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. At that time, nearly 4 in ten Americans said they wanted to see more engagement around the world, and just 14 percent said the nation should be less active.
Comparable studies in the mid-1990s found that about a third of Americans believed the U.S. should reduce its foreign policy footprint.
Obama –whose rise to the presidency was built partially around his opposition to the Iraq War – is definitely cognizant of Americans’ aversion to too much intervention abroad. As recently as Tuesday, he defended his foreign policy strategy -- with a nod to the conflict that galvanized support for him as a candidate in 2007 and 2008.
“For some reason, many who were proponents of what I consider to be a disastrous decision to go into Iraq haven’t really learned the lesson of the last decade, and they keep on just playing the same note over and over again,” he said, adding that “my job as Commander-in-Chief is to look at what is it that is going to advance our security interests over the long term, to keep our military in reserve for where we absolutely need it.”
Despite Obama’s decisions so far towards relatively minimized U.S. presences in Ukraine and Syria, voters are still displeased with his foreign policy strategy at record levels.
Only 38 percent of those polls said they approve of the job Obama is doing handling foreign policy, an all-time low in his presidency. Fifty-three percent disapprove and nine percent say they aren’t sure.