Support for NATO Falling Among Americans, New Survey Shows

Americans' support for NATO declined dramatically between 2018 and 2019 as the 70-year-old alliance grappled with internal disputes, a resurgent Russian threat, technological advances, and resilient terrorist organizations.

The survey from the Pew Research Center also found that a majority of the respondents, which included residents of NATO other countries, remained hesitant about their nations adhering to NATO Article 5, the cornerstone of the accord which provides for the joint military support from all nations if a member state is attacked.

In surveying a total of 21,029 people from 19 nations between May and August last year the report found citizens remain generally supportive of the transatlantic alliance. Little more than a quarter of those surveyed, or 27 percent, from a majority of member states held an unfavorable opinion of the accord.

Despite President Trump's attacks on the alliance American support for NATO surged in 2017. From 2018 to 2019, approval dropped roughly 12 percent, returning to historical levels of support.

Julianne Smith, a former national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, told Newsweek, "It shouldn't be shocking, given what the president has said about the NATO alliance for the better part of the last three years," that American support for the bloc has dropped.

NATO has enjoyed bipartisan support in the U.S. for 70 years, but Trump's presidency has exposed rifts within the organization. "I worry that in a second Trump term, maybe we would see some additional damage to these core tenets that U.S. foreign policy," said Smith.

Trump was criticized for being dismissive of the alliance, describing the accord as obsolete. His concerns about other nations' failure to meet their own military spending targets are shared by a significant number of Americans "on the left and the right," Smith said.

"Trump has taken at least some American doubts about the utility and value of American engagement in the world and put that all on steroids," she added. "What you're seeing in the survey is that the sands are shifting."

The Designs of Article 5

Article 5 is "at the very heart of NATO's founding treaty," the alliance says. But the Pew report shows that a median of 50 percent of NATO respondents do not support their nation honoring the commitment . Thirty-eight percent said their country should.

Sixty percent of all those surveyed still believed that the U.S. would protect alliance members against Russian attack.

Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Alexander Vershbow told Newsweek that this element of the report was "heartening" and showed continued U.S. leadership in the alliance, irrespective of what he called a "schizophrenic" Trumpian approach to the bloc.

NATO, summit, US, survey, approval, article 5
This file photo shows the NATO heads of government at the NATO summit at the Grove hotel in Watford, northeast of London, U.K. on December 4, 2019. ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images/Getty