Public Backs Abiding by International Law

In the bad old days of the Bush administration, our nation’s leaders did not seem too interested in abiding by international law and, in fact, seemed to take some pride in asserting our right to ignore it. Under the Obama administration, that attitude has changed and it is good to see some polling evidence—from a WorldPublicOpinion.org poll, conducted by Knowledge Networks—that the public is simpatico with this shift.

American respondents to this poll—which included people from 20 other countries —said “our nation should consistently follow international laws” (69 percent) rather than feel free to ignore those laws if they are not deemed to be in our nation’s interest (29 percent).

Moreover, respondents expressed confidence in the decisions of the World Court, an institution the Bush administration was quite skeptical of. Fifty-seven percent said they would be very or somewhat confident that a World Court decision involving the United States would be fair and impartial, compared to 42 percent who were not very or not at all confident.

The Obama administration is determined to reverse the mistakes of the Bush administration in foreign policy. In this area, as in others, it looks like they’ve got the public’s backing.

Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. To learn more about his public opinion analysis go to the Media and Culture page and the Progressive Studies program page of our website.