Solid Majority of Americans Say UN Doing a Poor Job

More Americans believe the U.N. is doing a poor rather than good job in trying to solve the problems it has had to face, by 57% to 35%. This rating is slightly worse than a year ago, when 50% said the U.N. was doing a poor job, and thus continues a decade-long trend of low public confidence in the U.N.

These results come from the Feb. 6-9 Gallup World Affairs Poll. The U.N. has been struggling to help bring the bloody, three-year Syrian civil war to a close, with the most recent U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Geneva widely seen as a failure, to the point that the U.N. envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, publicly apologized to the Syrian people that the peace conference did not yield any progress.

With such intractable conflicts as Syria dogging the U.N., it may not be surprising that many Americans would consider the international body — originally proposed by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and established with strong U.S. support — ineffective. However, Americans’ negative evaluation of the U.N.’s functioning is nothing new. After the U.S. failed to win U.N. support for the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the percentage of Americans who said the U.N. was doing a good job fell 13 points to 37%, and hit a nadir of 26% in 2009. It has failed to climb above 40% since then.

Prior to the Iraq war, Americans’ reviews of the international body waxed and waned. Opinions were generally positive in the 1950s and 1960s — not long after the institution was created — before falling off in the 1970s, a decade marked by continued war in Vietnam, a war between Israel and several Arab nations, and OPEC’s oil embargo of the U.S. American attitudes became more positive in the early 1990s, when the U.N. Security Council maintained a unified front against Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

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