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Year in Review: 2023 in Public Opinion

Running Numbers by Libby Berry
AP Photos
The 2023 New Year's Eve numerals are displayed in Times Square,

Over the past 12 months, our pollsters tracked public attitudes on everything from the war in Ukraine to conflict in the Middle East.

How do Americans and other global publics understand the key issues facing our world today? Throughout 2023, the Council’s survey team crunched the numbers to find out. Explore the links below for a look at what we learned.

Global Conflicts


Russia-Ukraine

In collaboration with the Levada Center in Moscow, we tracked public sentiment toward the war in both the United States and Russia through a series of surveys and focus groups. Although American support for US aid to Ukraine has declined slightly, our data show a majority continue to believe such assistance has been worth the cost.

Meanwhile, Russian support for the “military operation” remains stable, but the public is divided over its effects.

Israel-Hamas

Even before Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, our survey team was monitoring public attitudes toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As the situation continues to escalate, we’ve been paying close attention to how American views are shifting and what role they think the United States should play moving forward.

Critical Threats to the United States


Nuclear Weapons

Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer biopic put nuclear weapons—and the threat they pose—back in the spotlight this summer. To find out where Americans stand today, the Council teamed up with the Carnegie Corporation of New York to gauge public awareness and interest in US nuclear policies. A panel of emerging nuclear experts then joined us to unpack the results in a live-streamed webinar.

China’s Rise

Between spy balloons and tensions in the Taiwan Strait, public concern over China’s development as a world power continues to rise. Our 2023 survey finds Americans feel more threat from China now than at any time since the Cold War and see allies like South Korea and Japan as valuable in balancing Beijing’s influence in the Indo-Pacific.

Climate Change

Another threat top of mind for many Americans is climate change, though Council polling shows Democrats are far more concerned than Republicans. However, our latest survey reveals the public is mostly on the same page when it comes to aiding countries more vulnerable to severe environmental threats.

American Identity


America’s Global Role

Each year, Council asks Americans to weigh in on a core component of US identity: Is it better for the United States to play an active role in world affairs or stay out? For the first time in 2023, a majority of Republicans said stay out, though Americans across the political spectrum largely report they continue to see benefits from global engagement through alliances, international agreements, and trade.

Race and Ethnicity

Speaking of identity, we spent some time this year breaking down our data to analyze results by race and ethnicity. With our partners at New America, we dug deeper into how different communities feel about the key foreign policy issues of the day, including climate change, immigration, and use of military force.

Generational Divides

We also sliced the data by age group to see how different generations view America’s role in the world. The data show that while younger Americans are more skeptical than their elders when it comes to using military force abroad, they back other forms of US leadership overseas.

What's Next?


Next year is a big one for us: 2024 marks the 50th anniversary of the Chicago Council Survey. Stay tuned for deep dives on immigration, Asia policy, and so much more. 

About the Author
Communications Officer
headshot of Libby Berry
As the communications officer for the Lester Crown Center, Libby Berry works to connect audiences with foreign policy research and analysis.
headshot of Libby Berry
About the Survey Team
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.
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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
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.
Research Assistant, Public Opinion and US Foreign Policy
Headshot for Lama El Baz
Lama El Baz joined the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in 2023 as a research assistant for the public opinion and US foreign policy team within the Lester Crown Center. She is passionate about public opinion research, data analytics, and the regional affairs of the Middle East and North Africa.
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