Question of the day findings: Does the US have less or more influence than a decade ago?

August 07, 2012, 3:07 PM GMT+0

The dawn of the era of ‘multipolarity’, in which American hegemony is challenged by rival power centres - China in particular - has been heralded for some time. Yet for the time being, the US is still the world’s largest economy, and its only military superpower.

But is American influence what it used to be?

We invited our Question of the Day panellists to share their views on whether the United States has more, less, or the same amount of influence in the world today, compared with a decade ago.

An overwhelming proportion of participants told us that in their view the US has less influence in the world today than it did a decade ago.

  • Our panellists cited a range of reasons for why they held this belief, but America’s perceived decline in the eyes of other nations and peoples around the world was a common theme in their comments.
  • Many of you argued that Barack Obama is seen as weak president, and “lightweight on the world stage.
  • You said that the United States was weaker morally, economically, and relatively when compared to rising powers, particularly China.
  • Some participants blamed excessive liberalism in America as the reason for its purported waning influence, while others by contrast said “narrow” right-wing thinking was to blame for the country’s diminished standing in the eyes of the world.

A much smaller proportion of participants said that the US had either the same or more influence than it did ten years ago.

  • Those who were of this view often felt that the US is still the only superpower militarily, and that it is also the most powerful stable democracy in the world.
  • Participants also said that Barack Obama is seen, in the eyes of the world, as an improvement over George W. Bush, who was president a decade ago.
  • Finally, you said that America was still seen as a land of opportunity for many people in the world; its culture and influence continuing to be projected through TV shows and movies.

We also asked our panellists to look ten years into the future and tell us if they thought the United States would have more, less, or the same amount of influence in the world, compared to today

Again, the largest proportion of participants said that the US would have less influence in a decade’s time, compared to today – continuing a decline in power perceived to have begun ten years’ ago, according to the consensus of your prior findings.

  • Economic decline was the most frequently cited reason for why American influence would erode over the next ten years.
  • The rise of rival nations, as well as impotent political leadership were also mentioned as factors that would cause US influence to recede.

Then the second highest proportion of participants said they weren’t sure whether the US would have more, less or the same influence in a decade’s time.

  • Most of you said the near-term future of American influence depended entirely on the next presidential election, this November, which some said would be a ‘pivotal’ moment that would decide the direction the US would take going forward.
  • Not surprisingly, some participants felt that an Obama victory would cause American influence to increase, while others said a Romney victory would be best for the US’s influence in the world.

Then roughly equal proportions of those who took part in the discussion said that the US would have the same or more influence in a decade.

  • As with the previous group, many participants said the future of American influence would depend on who won the presidential election, although this group was mostly in favour of Mitt Romney.
  • Others argued that there was no rival nation that could feasibly displace the US in terms of overall influence over the next decade.

(Click on each argument below to see more quotes.)

Q: Overall do you think the United States has more, less, or the same amount of influence in the world today, compared with a decade ago?

'The United States has LESS influence that it did a decade ago'

“We are no longer considered a world power. Countries don't think we will follow through. We have also turned our backs to our allies. Iran has their bluff on the current administration. Obama is a very weak leader and has weakened our nation while putting us into deep debt” Steve, Texas

“The current president has tried to redefine America's role in the world over his term. He does not express our exceptionalism like his predecessors. Also, nations like China are becoming more dominant or influential” Bill, Tampa, FL

“The United States has, first and foremost, lost the respect that it used to command on the global stage. Starting with the knee-jerk post-9/11 reactions and continuing to a vastly unpopular war, public opinion in much of the world seems to have gone against US policy. They are viewed as loud, brash troublemakers with thinly-veiled imperialist intentions” Andy, NYC

“Because of the narrow regressive attitudes of the right wing of this country. Too much war, hatred, and racism come from the United States” Alan, Burbank, CA

“Liberals are stubbornly moving toward isolationism, as they always do, except where it involves moving the USA toward socialism and worse. This is reflected daily in their interactions with the rest of the world, including the useless and socialist United Nations” Anon

“We aren't an example of freedom and fairness anymore. Our country is in turmoil from within and we are self-destructing” Suzanne, Algona, IA

“Iraq and Afghanistan have showed that US military power, although incredible, is not by itself sufficient to insure peace. The US economy has suffered while the Chinese economy has rocketed up. Money talks and China has lots. Our use of torture and targeted killings has caused us to lose even more of the moral high ground we enjoyed earlier in the 20th century (it probably peaked around the Korean war)” Anon

“Our economy has suffered due to the ineptitude of a former president. We have been and are involved in wars that have made us look bad to the rest of the world. We have fallen behind academically. We are a very violent nation with mass murders taking place on what seems to be a far too regular scale” Anon

'The United States has the SAME or MORE influence than it did a decade ago'

“The US has not increased its relative power over other countries, but neither has any other country moved to be in a position to threaten the military dominance of the US over global affairs” Anon

“We are still the most stable economy and the most stable democracy in the world” Marty, Beaumont, Texas

“We have our first African American president. When I was growing up in the 1960s we never would have believed it would happen in our lifetime. I think it shows we have become more understanding of those who are different from us” Elizabeth, NYC

“More people are aware of how things are in the US because of TV and the internet. People still want to come here by the thousands to live our way of life, probably more so than any other time in history” Faye, Sparks, NV

“Under the Bush Administration countries that supported us or looked for support from us laughed, mocked or threw shoes at us. Bad decisions that led to damaging the economy and record high job loss. Now, under Obama, respect from other countries has been restored and some peace in the Middle East is growing” Tara, Miami, FL

“A decade ago we were in the grip of George Bush – a man with little sense of diplomacy or world leadership. The entire world had absolutely no respect for him. We were fast becoming the laughing stock of countries everywhere. On a trip to Europe, I was asked multiple times why I would vote for such an idiot. I quickly assured those folks that I didn't vote for ‘the idiot’! President Obama is an intelligent man who is respected worldwide. Our enemies realize that he's a man to be reckoned with” Mimi, Virginia