People in the United States hold differing views on various foreign policy principles, but only a third are ready to justify the torture of terrorism suspects, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative national sample of 1,008 American adults, half of respondents (50%) agree with the notion that the U.S. Government should continue to be the global leader to solve international disputes, while two-in-five (41%) disagree.

The proportion of Democrats and Republicans who endorse the continuation of this role for the United States is exactly the same (54%), while Independents are not as convinced about this idea (43%).

The Use of Force and Regime Change

The political divergence is more evident in a question related to the U.S. Government only using force against another nation with authorization from the United Nations (UN). Half of all Americans (50%)—and 49 per cent of Independents—agree with this principle, but Democrats are far more likely to endorse it (63%) than Republicans (37%).

Almost half of Americans (48%) agree with the notion that the U.S. Government should overthrow dictatorships and change regimes if it believes they pose an imminent threat. The views of Democrats (45%) and Independents (44%) are nuanced, while three-in-five Republicans (59%) approve this foreign policy principle.


Only one third of Americans (34%) believe the U.S. Government should rely on torture to gain information from terrorism suspects. Democrats (24%) are less likely than Independents (37%) and Republicans (45%) to endorse the use of torture.


Following the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Americans appear to be becoming more “dovish” when assessing the potential reach of their federal government in the global stage. Half of respondents want the U.S. to remain the global leader to solve international disputes, but the same proportion also believe force should only be used against another nation in the context of a UN mandate.

A slightly lower number of Americans endorse “regime change” in the event of an imminent threat from a dictatorship, but the idea of using torture to gain information from terrorism suspects is only supported by a third of respondents.

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)


Mario Canseco, Vice President, Angus Reid Public Opinion
+877 730 3570

Methodology: From January 27 to January 28, 2012, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 1,008 American adults who are Springboard America panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of the United States. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.