NPR/Ipsos Poll: Americans Aren't So Hot On 'America First' President Trump is on his first foreign trip, taking him to the Middle East and Europe. But a new poll from NPR and Ipsos shows Americans are skeptical of Trump's populist foreign policy.
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NPR/Ipsos Poll: Americans Aren't So Hot On 'America First'

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NPR/Ipsos Poll: Americans Aren't So Hot On 'America First'

NPR/Ipsos Poll: Americans Aren't So Hot On 'America First'

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia this morning - the start of his first overseas trip and a test of Mr. Trump's approach to foreign policy, which he spelled out in his inaugural address.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: From this day forward, it's going to be only America First.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: America First.

SIMON: A new NPR-Ipsos poll finds that Americans have widely differing views of that approach, but a majority of both Republicans and Democrats want the United States to continue its engagement with the world. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: NPR and its polling partner, Ipsos Public Affairs, surveyed more than 1,000 people across the country, asking what America First means to them. For Stephen Coppola, who lives in Nebraska, it means keeping the focus close to home.

STEPHEN COPPOLA: We have our own problems here in this country. And we should take care of our people first before we worry about what other people are doing in other countries.

HORSLEY: Amanda Rehfeldt of California shares that sentiment but only up to a point.

AMANDA REHFELDT: I believe that we should absolutely take care of our own country, but I don't believe it should be Americans first and forget about others.

HORSLEY: Indeed, more than half the people we surveyed say America's foreign policy should focus on maintaining the current international order, with America at the center but not all by itself. Less than a quarter of those polled say leaders should look out for Americans even if it harms people elsewhere.

CLIFFORD YOUNG: We find a super majority support for basically seeing the U.S. as a force for good in the world.

HORSLEY: Pollster Clifford Young, the president of Ipsos Public Affairs, says that viewpoint is broadly shared across the political spectrum, though Democrats and Republicans may express it differently.

YOUNG: Democrats see the role of the United States in the world in more sort of aspirational terms, while Republicans see it much more in transactional terms.

HORSLEY: As a result, Democrats in the survey were much more likely to say foreign policy should promote democracy and human rights in other countries, while Republicans tend to prefer policies that enrich America and Americans. While the phrase America First was used by isolationists in the 1940s, Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, says it shouldn't have that connotation today.

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H R MCMASTER: President Trump understands that America First does not mean America alone - to the contrary. Prioritizing American interests means strengthening alliances and partnerships that help us extend our influence and improve the security of the American people.

HORSLEY: Trump's trip includes a meeting in Brussels with NATO allies. The president has often complained that only a handful of NATO countries are making the necessary investment in their own defense, forcing the U.S. to spend more.

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TRUMP: I will strengthen all friendships and will seek new partners but partners who also help us, not partners who take and take and take.

HORSLEY: Majorities in both parties say America should provide humanitarian aid to foreign countries. But Young says a large number of both Republicans and Democrats are wary of intervening in foreign conflicts to bring peace.

YOUNG: It's the word intervention. Yes, we want to help countries, but we don't want to be stuck in their conflicts forever.

HORSLEY: And despite the president's frequent criticism of international trade deals, the survey found large and bipartisan support for using trade as a tool of American diplomacy. Nearly 8 out of 10 Democrats and Republicans agree with that policy. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.

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