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Year in Review: 2022 in Public Opinion

Running Numbers by Dina Smeltz , Karl Friedhoff , Craig Kafura , and Emily Sullivan
a sign reads 2022 in NYC

Reflect on the year with highlights from the Council's public opinion research and analysis.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 had many in the foreign policy community claiming the end of a post-Cold War era, and the beginning of a new one structured around fierce great power competition and the deterioration of international laws and norms. But while many eyes were trained on Eastern Europe, consequential developments were taking place around the world, from North Korea’s missile tests, to monumental protests in China and Iran, to skyrocketing inflation here at home. Through it all, the public opinion team at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs has monitored what Americans and other publics around the world think about these events and their implications.

In 2022, the Council’s survey research was headlined by the 2022 Chicago Council Survey, our annual study of American foreign policy and public opinion. Fielded July 15–August 1, the 2022 survey focused on the impact of the war in Ukraine on US public opinion on a range of foreign policy topics. We found that on some of the most significant issues of the day, Americans across party lines are in agreement, albeit often for different reasons. Read the full report.

But that’s not all our team was working on this year. Check out this recap of our other research and analysis.


The breadth and endurance of American public support for assisting Ukraine has been a key theme of the Council public opinion team's work across a number of surveys and analysis pieces this year. American opinion of Russia has plummeted to Cold War levels, while support for NATO and maintaining US bases in Europe are at all-time highs. As of November, majorities of Americans still supported sanctioning Russia, accepting Ukrainian refugees, and sending economic and military aid to Ukraine, although partisan cracks are beginning to emerge.

But Americans were not the only ones watching the conflict in Ukraine. Through a Carnegie Corporation-funded project with the Moscow-based Levada Center, the Council was also able to survey Russians in March and April on their opinions about the conflict. Our data show that while a majority of Russians still say they support their military’s actions, just over half are ready to see their government enter into peace negotiations. Beyond this, our team looked at opinion about the conflict in Japan, Ukraine, and a number of other European countries.

Asia Policy

The 2022 National Security Strategy identifies China as “America’s most consequential geopolitical challenge.” And even though many American eyes were trained on Russia this year, the 2022 Chicago Council Survey found a majority of Americans think that the war in Ukraine will embolden other countries to launch wars of territorial conquest, and particularly could encourage China to attack Taiwan. American views of China are at record lows, while support for Taiwan remains solid.

Amid tensions with Beijing, Americans will look to further strengthen relationship with regional allies Japan and South Korea. Data from the 2022 Chicago Council Survey indicate that the war in Ukraine strengthened the American public’s commitment to allies not just in Europe but around the world. Support for maintaining US bases in Japan and South Korea remains at or near all-time highs, as does support or defending each of the countries in the case of an attack. Through partnerships with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Japan Institute of International Affairs<, and with the support of the Korea Foundation, the Council’s public opinion team was able to conduct surveys of the South Korean and Japanese public this year in addition to our analyses of US opinion.

Middle East

This year marked a year since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and President Joe Biden’s first trip to the Middle East. At multiple points throughout the year it also looked like a return to the Iran nuclear deal was imminent, although the agreement remains stalled today. While the war in Ukraine pulled much of the public’s focus to Europe, the American public still had strong opinions on these and other important topics in Middle Eastern affairs.

Strange Bedfellows?

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this year only intensified conversations that were already taking place within US foreign policy about the global tension between democracy and autocracy, and how the United States should (or should not) incorporate a country’s values and government model when making alignment decisions going forward.Our analysis found that while the American public may be OK working with autocratic countries in some scenarios, they would prefer to run essential supply chains through countries they see as friendly.


Immigration remained a politically divisive topic among the American public this year. And at a deeper level the US public is split over what value, if any, racial and ethnic diversity add to US society. Our team dug deeper into these views and what they could signal for the prospects of different refugee groups.

American Fault Lines

Broadly speaking, Americans of many different political ideologies and walks of life united in support of Ukraine, European security, and the importance of US alliances around the world this year. But that does not mean there aren’t deep fault lines dividing the American public on a number of key issues. This year, members of our team dug into a number of these divisive topics, including ideology within parties, partisan views on climate change, and racial differences in views on COVID-19, among others.

Looking Ahead

Cyber and nuclear warfare consistently top the list of threats to US security that Americans are most concerned about. Heading into 2023, with the war between Russia and Ukraine continuing on, both of these threats will continue to be top of mind for American policymakers as well. Our team has put together snapshots of public opinion on these two key topics.

Read the full 2022 Chicago Council Survey

About the Authors
Senior Fellow, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy
Headshot for Dina Smeltz
Dina Smeltz, a polling expert, has more than 25 years of experience designing and fielding international social and political surveys. Prior to joining the Council to lead its annual survey of American attitudes on US foreign policy, she served in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the US State Department's Office of Research from 1992 to 2008.
Headshot for Dina Smeltz
Marshall M. Bouton Fellow for Asia Studies
Council expert Karl Friedhoff
Karl Friedhoff was a Korea Foundation-Mansfield Foundation US-Korea Nexus Scholar and a member of the Mansfield Foundation’s Trilateral Working Group prior to joining the Council. Previously, he was a program officer in the Public Opinion Studies Program at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies based in Seoul, South Korea.
Council expert Karl Friedhoff
Assistant Director, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy
headshot of Craig Kafura
Craig Kafura is the assistant director for public opinion and foreign policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a Security Fellow with the Truman National Security Project, and a Pacific Forum Young Leader. At the Council, he coordinates work on public opinion and foreign policy and is a regular contributor to the public opinion and foreign policy blog Running Numbers.
headshot of Craig Kafura
Emily Sullivan
Former Research Assistant, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy
Headshot for Emily Sullivan
Emily Sullivan joined the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in 2021 and was a research assistant on the Public Opinion team.
Headshot for Emily Sullivan