As NATO celebrates its 70th anniversary, certainty about its future is less solid than it has been for anniversaries in the past. Of particular significance are a number of statements made by US President Donald Trump. During the presidential campaign and three days before entering office in January 2017 he stated that NATO was “obsolete.” Also, in July of 2018 he questioned the US’ commitment to defend NATO members who might become aggressive towards Russia.
A key focus of discussion has been on the failure of many NATO member countries to meet the commitment to spend at least two percent of their economy on defense. President Trump remarked as recently as August 2018 that if member countries continue to fail to meet this commitment, the US would consider pulling out of NATO.
Such comments have stimulated a discussion about the US’ commitment to NATO, as well as a broader discussion of the US’ role in the world. Many commentators assume that these suggestions that the US might consider withdrawing from NATO arise from growing isolationism in the American public, especially as the memories of the Cold War fade.
But, how do Americans feel about the US’ role in NATO? The aim of this study was to give a representative sample of voters an opportunity to formulate their views of US participation in NATO. The design of the study was to take respondents through a “policymaking simulation” in which they are put in the shoes of a policymaker and evaluate arguments for and against US participation in NATO, and for how the US should deal with concerns about defense spending levels of NATO allies, before providing their final recommendations.