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Go it alone

International | American isolationist sentiments reach a 40-year high in a new report from the Pew Research Center

WASHINGTON-Americans have expressed the highest level of isolationism in more than 40 years, according to a newly released survey.

A Pew Research Center report found that 49 percent of respondents said that the United States should "mind its own business" internationally, the highest percentage since Gallup began this survey in 1964. In 2002, only 30 percent agreed with the "mind its own business" statement.

Further cementing an isolationist outlook, Americans support a more unilateralist foreign policy, with 44 percent saying that the United States "is the most powerful nation in the world, we should go our own way in international matters, not worrying about whether other countries agree with us or not." That's also the highest percentage since 1964.

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"The American public is not looking fondly at the rest of the world," said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center.

Kohut said the numbers could be partly explained by the sour economy, adding that, historically, bad economies cause Americans to be "uncertain and apprehensive" about the country's place in the world.

The survey, conducted in October and November before President Obama announced his plans for Afghanistan, revealed an American public pessimistic about the prospects for success in the war-torn country. Fewer than half of the respondents believe that it is somewhat or very likely that the Afghan government can prevail against the Taliban.

"The president is sailing into a stiff wind, both in terms of the specific issue of Afghanistan, but also in terms of the president's approach to foreign policy more broadly," said James Lindsay of the Council on Foreign Relations, which collaborated on the report.

The idea of increasing troops in Afghanistan found support from 32 percent of respondents.

While a majority still considers the United States the leading military power, 44 percent said China is the world's leading economic power, compared to 27 percent who named the United States, which reverses numbers from a poll conducted last year. Kohut said those numbers reflect the sentiment that China has emerged from the global financial crisis better off than the United States.

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emzleb.

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