May 5, 2016

Public Uncertain, Divided Over America’s Place in the World

2. Views of impact of global economic involvement, policies toward developing countries

The public is wary about U.S. involvement in the global economy. And when it comes to dealing with developing countries, no more than about half support increasing foreign aid or imports, or increasing investments by U.S. companies in developing countries.

Is being part of a global economy good or bad for the U.S.?

Nearly half view U.S. involvement in global economy as a bad thingRoughly half of the public (49%) say global economic engagement is “a bad thing because it lowers wages and costs jobs in the U.S.” Slightly fewer (44%) view it as “a good thing because it provides the U.S. with new markets and opportunities for growth.”

There are partisan differences in views of U.S. involvement in the global economy. A majority of Republicans (55%) view global involvement as a bad thing (37% say it is a good thing). Democrats and independents are divided; roughly equal shares say it is a good thing (49% and 46%, respectively) as say it is a bad thing (44% and 48%).

Within both parties, views among registered voters vary considerably by primary preferences. Republican and Republican-leaning voters who back Donald Trump are the most skeptical of U.S. involvement in the global economy: By a roughly two-to-one margin (65% to 31%) more say it is a bad thing. By contrast, only around half of those who prefer Cruz (49%) or Kasich (46%) say global engagement is a bad thing.

On the Democratic side, a majority of Clinton supporters (55%) view U.S. global economic involvement as a good thing while fewer (37%) say it is a bad thing. Roughly equal shares of Sanders supporters say it is good for the U.S. to be involved globally (47%) as say it is bad (48%).

Age, education and party differences in views of U.S. role in global economyThere are also substantial age and education gaps on attitudes about the United States’ involvement in the global economy. About half of adults under 30 (53%) believe that U.S. global economic engagement is a good thing, while 43% say it is a bad thing. Older adults are more skeptical; 52% of those ages 65 and older say U.S. involvement in the global economy is a bad thing.

More-highly educated Americans are more likely to view global economic engagement positively. Majorities of those with a postgraduate degree (60%) and a college degree (54%) say that, on balance, U.S. global engagement is a good thing. Only 36% of those with no more than a high school degree and 44% of those with some college experience say the same.

Views of U.S. participation in a global economy also vary by family income. Nearly six-in-ten (58%) of those with family incomes of $150,000 or more have positive views of U.S. global economic involvement. Among those in the lowest income category – $30,000 or less – just 40% say involvement in the global economy is a good thing for the United States.

How to deal with developing countries

Mixed views of U.S. policies toward developing countriesNarrow majorities of the public support importing more goods from developing countries (52%) and increasing U.S. companies’ investment in developing countries (also 52%). More than four-in-ten say they would oppose each of these measures.

Opinion is divided over whether the U.S. should increase foreign aid to developing countries. Half of the country (50%) is opposed while a roughly equal share (48%) would support increasing foreign aid.

Views on these items vary widely by age and education level. About six-in-ten of those under 30 express support for all three of these issues, while no more than four-in-ten of those 65 and older say the same.

Wide partisan gap on U.S. foreign aid to developing nationsMore-highly educated adults also tend to be more supportive of increased engagement with developing nations than those with less education.

There are wide partisan differences in views of how the U.S. should deal with developing countries. On all three issues, Republicans express far less support than Democrats, while independents fall in the middle.

Roughly four-in-ten Republicans say they would support importing more goods from developing nations (42%) and increasing investment from U.S. companies (44%). Fewer say they would be in favor of increasing foreign aid (32%).

About six-in-ten Democrats and around half of independents say they would be in favor of each of these policies.

On all three questions, Trump supporters are more likely than backers of Cruz or Kasich to oppose engagement with developing nations. Nearly eight-in-ten Trump supporters oppose increasing foreign aid to developing nations (78%); two-thirds are against importing more goods from these nations (67%); and about six-in ten disapprove of increasing U.S. companies’ investment abroad (63%).

On the Democratic side, there are no significant differences between the views of Clinton and Sanders supporters on these issues.Trump backers broadly oppose proposals aimed at helping developing countries