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Poll: Public Rejects Using Military Force to Promote Democracy; Rejects Democratization as Rationale for Iraq War


WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 -- The following was released today by the Program on International Policy Attitudes:

A new poll finds a majority of Americans reject the idea of using military force to promote democracy. Only 35 percent favored using military force to overthrow dictators. Less than one in five favored the US threatening to use military force if countries do not institute democratic reforms.

-- Public Not Convinced Democracy Makes World Safer or Counters Terrorism, But Favors Cooperative, Diplomatic Methods for Promoting Democracy and Speaking out on Human Rights

The effort to promote democracy in Iraq is generating little enthusiasm. Seventy-four percent (including 60 percent of Republicans) said that the goal of overthrowing Iraq’s authoritarian government and establishing democracy was not a good enough reason to go to war. Seventy-two percent said that the experience has made them feel worse about the possibility of using military force to bring about democracy in the future. Sixty-four percent (65 percent of Republicans) are ready to accept an Iraqi constitution that does not fully meet democratic standards, and once the constitution is ratified 57 percent want to start withdrawing troops.

Only 26 percent agreed that with more democracies the world is safer, and only 45 percent agreed that people in democracies are less likely to support terrorists. Even the view, popular among political scientists, that democracies are less likely to go to war with each other was only endorsed by 46 percent.

Americans are also not confident that democratic governments will be friendlier to the US. Only 42 percent assumed that when countries become more democratic they will be more likely to agree with US policies, and only 26 percent assumed that if Saudi Arabia were to hold free elections the government would be friendlier to the US.

Americans do favor the US promoting democracy through diplomatic, cooperative methods. Seventy-four percent favored helping emerging democracies with assistance in conducting elections. Nearly six in ten favor bringing student, journalists and politicians to the US to educate them on how democracy works.

The poll, a joint project of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations and the Program on International Policy Attitudes, was conducted by Knowledge Networks September 15-21 with a nationwide sample of 808 respondents (margin of error plus/minus 3.5-4 percent). A full report and questionnaire can be found at and .


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