US Attitudes on UN Peacekeeping: Poll Results, 05/28/'95

US Attitudes on UN Peacekeeping: Poll Results, 05/28/'95

Americans on UN Peacekeeping: A Study of US Public Attitudes

Selected Excerpts from Summary of Findings

A new study of American public attitudes on UN peacekeeping was recently conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes of the Center for International and Security Studies of the University of Maryland. It included a poll of 1,204 randomly selected adult Americans carried out April 19-23 (margin of error plus or minus 3-4%), focus groups, interviews and a review of other polls.

The study found:

* Approximately two out of three Americans support UN peacekeeping in principle, contributing troops to UN peacekeeping, paying UN peacekeeping dues in full, and also support most UN peacekeeping operations. Among Republicans, Democrats and Independents, there were no significant differences.

Sixty-seven percent said that they favor the idea of UN peacekeeping. An overwhelming 89% embraced the argument that "When there is a problem in the world that requires the use of military force, it is generally best for the US to address the problem together with other nations, working through the UN, rather than going it alone."

* A majority would accept US troops serving under a foreign UN commander.

* A majority feels that the US is contributing too much money and more than its fair share of troops to UN peacekeeping, but these attitudes are based on extreme overestimations of how much the US is actually contributing.

* There is a good deal of frustration with the lack of assertiveness of UN peacekeeping operations. The public seems to feel that UN peacekeeping, as it is presently being practiced, is too constricted a vessel for the purposes that they would like to see it fulfill.

The findings of the study suggest:

1. A strong majority of Americans supports UN peacekeeping in principle, but is frustrated by its lack of assertiveness. This frustration does not lead Americans to back away from UN peacekeeping but to want the UN to be more ready to use force, when necessary, to fulfill its mandates.

2. A strong majority supports contributing troops and money to UN peacekeeping. At the same time, this support is dampened by the majority's feeling that the US contributes too much. However, this feeling seems to be based on an extreme overestimation of how much the US is really contributing. When asked how much they would like to see the US contribute, a majority proposes a level that is substantially higher than the actual level.

Sixty-five percent favored the US contributing troops to UN peacekeeping operations. ... At the same time, 60% said that "As compared to other UN countries...the number of troops the US is presently contributing to UN peacekeeping is more than its fair share." ...

This attitude seems to rest on some major misperceptions. When half the sample was asked to estimate "what percentage of the troops that are presently participating in UN peacekeeping are American," the median estimate was 40%--ten times the actual level.

"What percentage of UN peacekeeping troops are American?"
Median estimate perceived: 40%
Median estimate appropriate: 30%
Actual: 4%

A strong majority, 65%, said the US should pay its UN
peacekeeping dues in full. At the same time, 58% say
the amount the US spends on UN peacekeeping is "too
much," with only 13% saying it is too little. However,
here again, this attitude seems to rest on a
misunderstanding of how much is actually being spent on
UN peacekeeping.

"The equivalent of what percentage of the defense
budget goes to UN peacekeeping?"
Median estimate perceived: 22%
Median estimate appropriate: 15%
Actual: 1%

When the other half sample was told that the US spends the equivalent of about 1% of the defense budget [on UN peacekeeping], only 18% said that this was "higher than it should be"--down from the 58% who initially said that the US was spending too much. A majority of 52% said that this amount was "lower than it should be," up from the 12% who had initially said the US spends too little on peacekeeping.

3. A majority would accept having US troops under a foreign UN commander in a UN peacekeeping operation that might require combat. If other nations have contributed more troops than the US, then a very strong majority would find a foreign commander acceptable.

4. A strong majority feels that participation in UN peacekeeping is an appropriate function for the US military and rejects the idea that participation in it undermines the readiness of US forces or dulls their fighting edge.

5. A slight majority favors deducting from the US's peacekeeping dues the cost of voluntary contributions to UN peacekeeping, but a strong majority rejects the idea of doing so unilaterally, or doing so if it would mean that UN peacekeeping would have to be drastically cut back.

6. The majority is frustrated with the UN peacekeeping operation in Bosnia and would like to see it be more forceful.

7. A strong majority feels that the UN should have used military force to stop the genocide in Rwanda and that the US should have contributed troops to such efforts. A majority now favors sending a UN peacekeeping force to Burundi and contributing US troops to it.

Respondents were presented a series of possible steps that could have been taken in Rwanda while the large- scale "killings" were going on last year (the word 'genocide' was never used to describe events there). Seventy-four percent said the UN should have forcibly entered the country and set up safe havens. Sixty percent favored destroyed the government radio stations that were broadcasting messages encouraging the killings.

If these steps had been taken and the killings continued, 62% said the UN should have "gone in with a large military force to occupy the country and stop the killings." Of those that favored sending in such a force 86% would have favored contributing US troops to it.

This support for intervention is not simply an expression of retrospective guilt. In a June-July PIPA poll, taken while the genocide was occurring, 60% favored US participation in a UN operation to set up safe havens, while 61% favored US participation in a "large" UN force to "occupy [Rwanda] and forcibly stop the killing."

When asked about Burundi--where there is tension between the same ethnic groups as in Rwanda--the recent PIPA poll found that 62% favored sending a UN peacekeeping force in the event that the Burundian government asks for such a force. The same number, 62%, favored contributing US troops to such an operation.

8. A slight majority favors US troops staying in Haiti a while longer as part of the UN peacekeeping operation. A stronger majority now feels the US did the right thing by threatening to use force to get the Haitian military to step down and to send in troops in reinstate President Aristide.

9. When respondents envision the possibility of American troop fatalities in the course of a UN peacekeeping operation, only a small majority say they would want to withdraw USA troops. The majority would favor an active response of either beefing up forces or striking back hard at the attackers.

In retrospect, despite the fatalities in Somalia, an overwhelming 82% currently approve UN peacekeepers having delivered humanitarian aid there, though a 46% plurality say it was a mistake to have tried to end the civil war.

The study *Americans on UN Peacekeeping: A Study of US Public Attitudes*, was conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, a program of the Center for the Study of Policy Attitudes and the University of Maryland Center for International and Security Studies. An 8-page summary is available free from the Center for the Study of Policy Attitudes (CSPA), 11 Dupont Circle NW, Suite 610, Washington, DC 20036. Phone: (202) 232- 7500. Fax: (202) 232-1159. Email: Inquire to CSPA for pricing on the full study.


Message-ID: 199505282019.NAA00718@cdp.igc.apc.or>
Date: Sun, 28 May 1995 13:19:13 -0700
From: The Washington Office on Africa woa@IGC.APC.ORG
Subject: US Attitudes on UN Peacekeeping: Poll Results

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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