December 3, 2013

Public Sees U.S. Power Declining as Support for Global Engagement Slips

Section 2: Views of Trade and the Global Economy

Support for U.S. Participation in Global EconomyWhile Americans remain reluctant about U.S. global engagement, most see benefits to greater economic integration, even when presented with potential drawbacks such as the possibility of risk and instability in the global economy.

About three-quarters of the public (77%) say the growing trade and business ties between the U.S. and other countries is a good thing, a view that is shared by 99% of Council on Foreign Relations members, including 86% who see it as a very good thing. Among the public, solid majorities of Republicans (74%), Democrats (83%) and independents (74%) describe increased international trade and business ties as good for the U.S.

Opinions on this issue are now as positive as they were when this question was first asked in 2002; at that time, 78% said that growing trade and business ties between the U.S. and other countries were a good thing. The percentage describing increased international trade and business ties in positive terms declined considerably during the economic downturn (59% in 2007 and 53% in 2008), before bouncing back to 65% in 2009, 66% in 2010 and 67% in 2011.

When asked whether greater U.S. involvement in the global economy is a good thing because it exposes the U.S. to new markets and opportunities for growth or a bad thing because it exposes the country to greater risks and uncertainty, 66% choose the former. One-quarter say greater participation in the global economy is a bad thing for the U.S.

As is the case with views about increased international trade and business ties, opinions about greater U.S. involvement in the global economy do not vary considerably across party line. About seven-in-ten Democrats (70%) and Republicans (69%) see greater involvement in the global economy as a good thing because it exposes the U.S. to new markets and opportunities for growth; 63% of independents agree.

The Economic Impact of Globalization

Public Has Mixed Views of GlobalizationAbout six-in-ten Americans (62%) say more foreign companies setting up operations in the U.S. would mostly help the U.S. economy, while 32% say this would mostly hurt. In contrast, 73% say more U.S. companies setting up operations overseas would hurt the economy, while 23% say it would help.

Views about the impact of immigration are more mixed. About as many think more people from other countries coming to the U.S. to work in high-skilled jobs would help the economy as say it would hurt (46% vs. 50%). Opinions are somewhat more negative when it comes to more people from other countries coming to the U.S. to work in low-skilled jobs: 43% say this would help and 52% say it would hurt the U.S. economy.

For the most part, opinions do not vary considerably across party lines, but Democrats are more likely than Republicans and independents to say more immigrants coming to the U.S. to work in low-skilled jobs would help the economy. More than half of Democrats (53%) say this is the case, compared with 31% of Republicans and 42% of independents.

Better Educated More Likely to See More Foreign Companies and Workers as Good for U.S. EconomyCollege graduates are more likely than those with less education to say that more foreign companies and workers coming to the U.S. would mostly help the nation’s economy. Relatively small percentages across all education groups say that more American companies moving overseas would mostly help the U.S. economy.

Unlike the public, members of the Council on Foreign Relations offer decidedly positive views of each of the four items tested. More than nine-in-ten say more foreign companies setting up operations in the U.S. and more people from other countries coming to the U.S. to work in high-skilled jobs would help the economy (96% and 95% respectively); smaller but substantial majorities say the same about more U.S. companies setting up operations overseas and more immigrants coming to the U.S. to work in low-skilled jobs (73% and 72% respectively).

Unchanged Opinions of Immigrants’ Impact

More View Immigrants as a Strength than as a BurdenWhile Americans offer somewhat mixed views of the economic impact of increased low-skilled and high-skilled immigration, there is no evidence of a backlash against immigrants.

About half (49%) agree with the statement “immigrants today strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents,” while 40% say immigrants “are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and health care.” This is unchanged from earlier this year.

In March 2011, about as many said immigrants were a strength as said they were a burden for the United States, while the opinion that immigrants were a burden prevailed in March 2006 and June 2010. Anti-immigrant sentiment was especially widespread in July 1994, when 63% described immigrants as a burden and 31% said immigrants strengthened the country.

Cite this publication: “Public Sees U.S. Power Declining as Support for Global Engagement Slips.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (December 3, 2013) http://www.people-press.org/2013/12/03/public-sees-u-s-power-declining-as-support-for-global-engagement-slips/, accessed on July 23, 2014.