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Poll Shows Deep Doubts About Bush Foreign Policy


WASHINGTON (Sept. 29) - The American public has doubts about whether the Bush administration policy of promoting democracy internationally will make the world a safer place.

A poll done at the University of Maryland found that just over a fourth, 28 percent, say they think the world is safer when there are more democracies, while more than twice as many, 68 percent, say democracy may make life better within a country but does not make the world safer.

The poll, released Thursday, was conducted by the university's Program on International Policy Attitudes in association with the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.

PIPA director Steven Kull said the poll indicates most people have not bought into President Bush's contention that "promoting democracy is a critical means for fighting terrorism and making the world safer."

Bush has made promoting democracy around the world a centerpiece of the war on terrorism.

"When freedom and democracy take root in the Middle East, America and the world will be safer and more peaceful," Bush said in March, a theme he has voiced frequently throughout the last year.

Under Secretary of State Karen Hughes has been traveling around the Middle East promoting democracy and trying to improve the image of the U.S. overseas.

Republicans had about as many doubts as the public at large regarding Bush's theory that increasing democracy makes the world safer. Only a third of Republicans, 34 percent, said they agree with that idea.

The administration is counting on democracy in Iraq to eventually bring an end to that war after Iraqis have voted on a constitution and held new elections.

Three-fourths of those surveyed, including a majority of Republicans, said overthrowing Iraq's authoritarian government and establishing a democracy there was not a sufficient reason to go to war in Iraq. The Bush administration originally said the war in Iraq was needed to disarm weapons of mass destruction in that country, but such weapons were never found.

Only four in 10 said countries that become more democratic are more likely to agree with the United States. One quarter of those polled said they thought Saudi Arabia would become more friendly to the U.S. if it holds free elections.

People were more likely to back the United States promoting democracy in other countries when it serves U.S. interests, rather than simply encouraging nations to be democratic as a rule.

"While Americans generally support the goal of promoting democracy, they take the pragmatic approach of not making it a top priority in all cases," said Christopher Whitney of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.

The poll of 808 adults was conducted Sept. 15-21 by Knowledge Networks and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.


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