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Majorities of Americans See the Need for NATO and the UN

Majorities of Americans See the Need for NATO and the UN

Story Highlights

  • 77% of Americans say NATO should be maintained
  • 66% say the United Nations plays a necessary role in the world
  • 44% say the U.N. does a good job of trying to solve problems it has faced

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President Donald Trump, who has questioned U.S. support for international organizations with his "America First" foreign policy, has been particularly skeptical of NATO, openly questioning the need for the alliance and expressing his wish to pull the U.S. out of it. A clear majority of Americans (currently 77%) continue to say the alliance should be maintained.

Line graph. Nearly eight in 10 Americans say the NATO alliance should be maintained, while 19% say it is not necessary.

These latest data come from Gallup's annual World Affairs survey, conducted Feb. 1-10. The survey was conducted less than a month after media reports broke that Trump publicly questioned the relevance of NATO and repeatedly brought up potentially withdrawing the U.S. from the NATO alliance. In response, European leaders and U.S. senators have been critical of Trump's views.

The current 77% of Americans who support maintaining the NATO alliance is little changed from the 80% who said the same the last time Gallup asked the question, in 2017, when Trump began to question its relevance. The current level of support is among the highest Gallup has measured on six occasions since 1989, although the higher support mainly reflects a decline in the percentage not having an opinion rather than a decrease in opposition.

Majority support for NATO is seen across political party groups, though Republicans express the lowest level of support, at 70%. Democrats' support is highest, at 88%, while independents fall in between, at 75%. Republicans' support for NATO is not substantially lower under Trump than it has been under other presidents, since 1990. Democrats' support, however, is much higher now than during the 1980s and 1990s, but off of the 97% peak in 2017. For Democrats, this may be a partisan response to Trump's criticisms of NATO.

Fewer Americans, but Still a Majority, See the Need for the UN

Trump has also been highly critical of another international organization, the United Nations, and in a September address to the U.N. General Assembly, emphasized that he prioritizes maintaining U.S. military strength and sovereignty over expanding global cooperation. A clear majority of Americans, 66%, say the U.N. plays a necessary role in the world. This level of support is unchanged from the past two times Gallup measured this, in 2013 and 2005, but is well below the 85% reading from 1997.

Line graph. Two-thirds of Americans say the United Nations plays a necessary role.

Democrats (86%) are far more likely than independents (66%) and especially Republicans (49%) to believe the organization plays a necessary role in the world today.

More Americans Say the UN Doing a Good Job in 2019

While a majority of Americans say the U.N. plays a necessary role in the world, less than half believe the organization does a good job of addressing the problems the world faces. Forty-four percent now say the U.N. does a good job in trying to solve problems, up from 34% last year. Americans' views of the U.N.'s job performance have ranged from a low of 26% saying it was doing a good job in 2009 to a high of 58% in 2002, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The percentage giving positive evaluations of the U.N. had been under 40% from March 2003 until this year.

Line graph. There was a 10- point spike in 2019 in the percentage of Americans who say the U.N. does a good job.

Similar to their skepticism about the necessity of global organizations, Republicans are the most negative on the U.N.'s job performance, with 28% of GOP supporters saying it does a good job. Democrats, as has traditionally been the case, are the most positive, with 62% saying the U.N. does a good job, and independents fall in between, at 43%. Opinions that the U.N. is doing a good job are up among all party groups by at least eight percentage points since last year.

Bottom Line

Trump's "America First" foreign policy has led many NATO allies to question the future of the alliance. A substantial majority of Americans remain in support of the alliance. Even among his own party, there is clear majority support for NATO, likely complicating any effort Trump might make to withdraw the U.S. from the alliance.

When it comes to the U.N., a clear majority of Americans still see the organization as necessary. Americans' belief that the U.N. is necessary has not shifted much for over a decade, but is less prevalent than in the late 1990s. The continued support for both the U.N. and NATO indicates that even in the era of America First, Americans see the value of multilateral institutions around the globe.

View complete question responses and trends.

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