Most Americans want more diplomacy, many want fewer troops abroad -survey

A U.S. soldier of 2-12 Infantry 4BCT-4ID Task Force Mountain Warrior takes a break during a night mission near Honaker Miracle camp at the Pesh valley of Kunar Province, Afghanistan, August 12, 2009. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

WASHINGTON, Sept 28 (Reuters) - A majority of Americans want more U.S. diplomatic engagement and a plurality want fewer U.S. troops stationed abroad, according to a survey taken as the chaotic U.S. evacuation of Afghanistan took place.

The survey, reviewed by Reuters on Tuesday, was designed by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Eurasia Group Foundation and conducted Aug. 27-Sept. 1. It found that 58.3% believe the United States should engage more in negotiations on issues such as climate change, human rights and migration.

It also found 21.6% believe the United States should engage less, while 20.1% had no opinion.

Of the 2,168 surveyed, 42.3% believe the United States should cut the number of troops in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, reduce its commitments to defend countries there and gradually shift regional security responsibility to allies.

The poll, which Reuters reviewed prior to its Wednesday release, found 32.2% believed the United States should either maintain or boost its troops abroad, while 25.5% had no opinion.

The last U.S. soldier left Afghanistan on Aug. 30, ending the nearly 20-year U.S. military involvement sparked by the goal of toppling the Taliban rulers who sheltered the al Qaeda group blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Eurasia Group Foundation senior fellow Mark Hannah said the number of Americans who believe U.S. foreign policy should be more concerned about building democracy at home than abroad increased substantially over the last two years, saying this may reflect the survey occurring as U.S. troops left Afghanistan.

"We collected our data at a time period when the U.S. was evacuating from Afghanistan and the failures of nation-building and democracy-promotion through military means were spectacular and quite stark," he added. "That might explain this uptick and a desire to do democracy promotion at home this year."

The survey also found that:

- 40.3% or respondents want to maintain current U.S. military spending, while 38.6% want to cut it and 16.4% want to increase it;

- 62.6% support reviving nuclear talks with Iran and seeking an agreement that prevents its development of nuclear weapons, while 37.4% oppose talks and favor pressuring Iran with economic sanctions to keep it from obtaining such arms;

- 42.2% believe the U.S. military should defend Taiwan if it were attacked by China, 16.2% believe it should not, and 41.6% were unsure.

The Eurasia Group Foundation, which designed the online survey carried out by SurveyMonkey, said it is legally separate from the Eurasia Group political risk consultancy. Both were founded by political scientist Ian Bremmer.

The survey had a plus or minus 2 percentage point margin of error, at a 95% confidence level, which the group described as typical for an adult population of 258.3 million.

(This story has been refiled to change margin of error to percentage points in final paragraph)

Reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington and by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Dan Grebler

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