American voters across demographic and partisan lines express confusion about the specific goals and purposes of U.S. foreign policy and national security policies. Decades after the end of the Cold War and 18 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, many voters are still asking: What exactly are we trying to accomplish as a nation?
American voters have not rejected traditional internationalism, but they are clearly weary after decades of military intervention in the Middle East and desire more focus on domestic investments in infrastructure, education, and health care at home. Voters are essentially divided, however, about the basic role of U.S. leadership in the world. Asked which statement comes closer to their view, a slight majority of voters, 51 percent, believe, “America is stronger when we take a leading role in the world to protect our national interests and advance common goals with other allies,” versus 44 percent who believe the opposite, that “America is stronger when we focus on our own problems instead of inserting ourselves in other countries’ problems,” with another 5 percent of voters not sure either way.