Americans Don’t Really Think the U.N. Does a Good Job
Americans want to fix the U.N., not fund it lavishly and mindlessly.


Brett D. Schaefer

For the second time in 2013, the Better World Campaign (BWC) has released polling results that purport to show Americans strongly support the United Nations. The most recent poll, conducted October 5–10, finds that “the UN’s image is the highest it has been since April 2010 with a comfortable majority [60%] of voters saying they have a favorable opinion of the United Nations.”

This conclusion by the BWC, a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening U.S. ties with the U.N., seems at odds with other polls. The most recent Gallup poll, conducted February 25–26, finds that Americans see the U.N. as “relevant on the world stage,” but “Americans are not highly positive about the job the United Nations is doing.”

When Gallup asked its standard question, “Do you think the United Nations is doing a good job or a poor job in trying to solve the problems it has to face?” only 35 percent of Americans said the U.N. is doing a “good job,” compared with 50 percent who said it’s doing a “poor job.”

This poll is consistent with long-term U.S. opinion. In the 35 Gallup polls posing that question, since 1953, respondents who answered that the U.N. was doing a poor job outnumbered those who thought it was doing a good job, by an average of 50 percent to 39 percent.

So why the difference between the BWC findings and Gallup’s? The polls are asking different questions. The BWC poll asks if Americans have a generally favorable view of the organization. This is a far cry from asking whether the U.N. is doing a good job or if Americans believe it needs reform.

The difference is critical because the BWC is using the poll to persuade Congress that Americans strongly support providing full and prompt funding for U.N. organizations without any conditions (the U.S. has withheld its dues and attached conditions in the past). Specifically, the poll reports: “Majorities of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats support the U.S. paying our UN peacekeeping dues on time and in full.”

This is hardly shocking. Most Americans are taught to honor their commitments and be personally responsible.