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Americans Put U.S. Security Ahead of Free Elections When It Comes To Choosing Allies

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

President Lyndon Johnson once reportedly said of certain right-wing dictators who were U.S. allies at the time, “They may be bastards, but they’re our bastards.” Most Americans seem to share the late president’s realistic assessment of U.S. foreign policy.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 60% of American Adults think it is more important for the United States to be allies with any country that best protects our own national security than it is to be allies only with countries that have freely elected governments. Just 20% say it is more important for America to only be allies with countries with democratically elected leaders. Another 20% are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Interestingly, there is little partisan disagreement on this question, although Republicans feel a bit more strongly than Democrats and adults not affiliated with either party that it's more important for the United States to ally with any country that is best for our own national security.

The Obama administration is currently wrestling with how to respond to the growing political protest in Egypt against Hosni Mubarak, the former Air Force general who has been the unchallenged leader of the country for 30 years. While Mubarak is a dictator, he is also America’s – and Israel’s – strongest ally in the Middle East. This question did not specifically refer to Mubarak but was included in a set of questions about the current situation in Egypt.

Most Americans expect the unrest in Egypt to spread to other Middle Eastern countries and think that will be bad for the United States.  But a sizable majority also believe the United States should keep its nose out of Egypt’s current problems.

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The survey of 1,000 American Adults was conducted on January 28-29, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level -of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

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