August 9, 2012

World to America: We want soft, not hard power

By Bruce Stokes, Director of Pew Global Economic Attitudes, Pew Research Center
Richard Wike, Associate Director, Pew Global Attitudes Project

Special to CNN

With less than three months to go in the U.S. presidential election, the candidates’ debate over America’s place in the world can only be expected to escalate. Republican contender Mitt Romney is likely to echo a theme he developed in the spring primary campaign: America’s stature on the world stage has suffered during President Barack Obama’s time in the White House. President Obama can be expected to counter that America isn’t in decline; in fact, during his tenure U.S. influence has rebounded.

This debate is broadly about American power. But power is a nuanced concept. It manifests itself both through military muscle and cultural influence. The candidates’ stump speeches rarely delineate this distinction. But global publics do. Recent opinion surveys suggest that people outside the United States question American hard power and increasingly embrace U.S. soft power.

Whoever is president in 2013, the success abroad of his foreign policy may depend on achieving the right balance in the exercise of American hard and soft power.

Read the full commentary at CNN’s Global Public Square blog