As often happens during election season here in the United States, there is always a certain cadre of candidates who tend to pick on the United Nations.  Some candidates, like Nevada Senate hopeful Sharron Angle go so far as to say the United States should withdraw from the United Nations. Other candidates like, Kentucky’s Rand Paul, oppose America paying its dues to the United Nations on time and in full.

If these sorts of stridently anti-UN positions strike you as out of the mainstream, well, it’s because they are.  New research from the bipartisan polling team of Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies and Geoff Garin of Hart Research Associates shows that a strong majority of Americans (59%) are favorably disposed to the United Nations, while only 29% say they have an unfavorable image of the UN.

According to the poll, the UN’s favorable image is “driven by the perceived ability of the organization to resolve conflicts, keep peace around the world, provide humanitarian and disaster relief, and because the UN is viewed as a place that serves as a forum for discussion and resolution of issues for countries around the world.”

What is striking about this poll is that the UN’s favorable image retains support across party lines.  To be sure, self-identified Democrats are more strongly supportive of the UN than Republicans. But even a majority of Republicans (55%) agree that the United Nations is still relevant.

It would seem that Paul, Angle and other candidates who routinely trash the United Nations risk alienating themselves from Independents and even Republicans.  The UN regularly becomes a punching bag during election season. But this poll seems to indicate that candidates beat up on the UN at their own peril.

Some other interesting data from the poll includes:

o More than six out of ten Americans (63%) favor the United States paying our dues to the United Nations on time and in full, while 31% oppose.

Majorities of Democrats and Independents favor paying our UN dues on time and in full, while Republicans are more closely divided.

o There is greater support for the United States paying our peacekeeping dues to the United Nations on time and in full (72% favor/23% oppose).

Majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans support the U.S. paying our UN peacekeeping dues on time and in full.

o Americans believe the United Nations has a number of important functions it serves in the world today from improving access to safe drinking water in poor, developing countries to building peace in countries emerging from conflict.

When asked how supportive the United States should be of each of these 14 roles and functions the United Nations serves, the percentage of Americans saying the U.S. should be supportive of each goal tested ranges from 75% to 91% supportive. This is a significant level of overall support for the roles and functions the UN serves.

Looking more closely at the intensity of support, a majority of Americans (52% to 61%) believe the U.S. should be “very supportive” of seven of the 14 UN functions tested.

o Once Americans hear about these different functions and roles the United Nations, support for the United States paying our dues on time and in full shifts from 63% favor/31% oppose to 79% favor/19% oppose.

o The international news environment has shifted over the course of the last six months back to a focus on war.

We ask respondents what they remember seeing, reading, or hearing in the past two to three months about international news stories happening outside of the United States. Voter recall has shifted from natural disaster news stories (22%) and Iran (20%) to a focus on the wars in Afghanistan (30%) and Iraq (14%).

Here is the full report.
bwc-fall-2010-polling-executive-summary NB. The poll was conducted for the UN Foundation/Better World Campaign. Disclosure.

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