ISSUE #7 – February / March 2022
Broad Bipartisan Support for US Engagement in European Security
In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine the US government has responded by working closely with NATO allies, imposing a range of sanctions on the Russian government and its political elite, sending military aid to Ukraine, and sending troops to the neighboring countries of Poland and Romania.
Americans are showing concern about the situation in Ukraine and support US actions. Two-thirds of Americans support sanctions on Russia in a recent ABC-Washington Post poll. A survey in February by Morning Consult found that 60% of voters agree, “the U.S. has a responsibility to protect and defend democracy in other countries,” including 70% of Democrats and 54% of Republicans.
This is consistent with broader support for NATO and the principles of collective security. In the Program for Public Consultation’s 2019 survey on collective security and NATO, a robust 82% said it should, “be a high priority in U.S. foreign policy to uphold the principle of collective security, by contributing to collective military operations and/or using economic sanctions in response to international aggression” (Republicans 77%, Democrats 89%, independents 71%).
An argument for collective security, that it is beneficial for countries to “join together to prevent any country from invading another,” was found convincing by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of 86% (Republicans 80%, Democrats 92%). An opposing argument that the US should just “do what makes sense in terms of our own interests at any particular moment and let other countries look out for themselves,” was found convincing by a much smaller number of 46%, including just 34% of Democrats and half of independents (49%), although a majority of Republicans did find it convincing (59%).
This support translates to specific policies, such as the US continuing to be part of NATO and defending its members. An overwhelming bipartisan majority of eight in ten Americans favored the US continuing to be part of NATO (Republicans 77%, Democrats 90%, independents 78%). The arguments in favor of continued participation in NATO–based on the persistent threat from Russia, the common bond of promoting freedom and democracy, and the value of having integrated militaries–were found convincing by equally overwhelming majorities.
US & NATO
Policymaking Simulation: Put yourself in the shoes of policymakers by trying our policymaking simulation on what policies the US should have in regard to NATO. In this simulation, you’ll get a briefing on the issue, learn the arguments for and against engagement in NATO, and determine your policy recommendations. Once you finish the simulation, you’ll have a chance to send your recommendation to your Congresspeople.
Council of Europe Looks to Deliberative Democracy in Georgia
The Council of Europe organized the event Deliberative Forms of Civil Participation at Local Level on February 17th, as part of the larger project “Strengthening participatory democracy and human rights at local level in Georgia.”
A specific form of deliberative democracy, the Citizens’ Assembly, was introduced as a keystone element. Citizen Assemblies bring together a representative group of residents, usually around a hundred, and give them information on the topics being discussed, bring in experts to explain the different sides of the issues, and then give them the opportunity to write a report outlining what they believe the government’s priorities should be and which policies they should pass or uphold.
David Melua, Executive Director of the National Association of Local Authorities in Georgia, stressed the crucial role that citizen participation must play if Georgia is going to continue to decentralize their government and move power out of a few hands at the top and into the hands of the public as a whole.
There is a large disconnect in Georgia, and most democracies today between what citizens expect and what their political representatives do, said the Head of the Department of Democracy and Governance, Daniel Popescu. Alexander Karner, Head of the Coordination Office for Technical Cooperation, added that bringing citizens into the decision-making process will not only better democracy in the short run, but help to create a broader culture of trust between authorities and the civil society that is the basis of a stable democratic society.
Ambivalence Towards US Membership in NATO
In PPC’s policymaking simulation, respondents evaluated two pairs of arguments for and against the US continuing to be part of NATO, before being asked whether they support or oppose the US staying in NATO. They rated each argument from very convincing to very unconvincing, with “somewhat” options in the middle. This gave them a chance to find both sides of the debate convincing, which is fairly common, and a sign of a healthy deliberation.
An analysis of this survey data found that about half of voters felt some level of ambivalence, but less than a fifth were very torn. Seventeen percent found all four of the pro and con arguments convincing, with little partisan difference (GOP 19%, Dem 15%, Ind 20%). Despite finding both sides of the debate convincing, the large majority of the ambivalent people, in the end, supported the US continuing to participate in NATO (71%).
Another third of voters (35%) had less, but still some ambivalence. They found both pro arguments and one con argument convincing, or vice versa. The other half of respondents showed no mixed feelings towards the issue, with most of these people decidedly on the pro-NATO side. Forty-four percent found all the arguments in favor of staying in NATO convincing and all the counter arguments unconvincing, with some substantial partisan differences: GOP 34%, Dem 55%, Ind 35%. Just 4% did the opposite.