WASHINGTON -- Americans are increasingly skeptical about whether the United States should thrust itself into conflicts overseas, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll, but that reluctance does not extend to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
After 12 years of war and amid signs of a sustainable economic recovery, nearly six in 10 people said the United States should not take a leading role among all other countries in trying to solve conflicts, the poll found, while only about a third said it should remain at the forefront.
On Iran, however, the same proportion of people -- 58 percent -- favored the United States taking military action to stop Iran from manufacturing a bomb, an action that President Obama has repeatedly warned the Iranian government is a "red line" for the United States.
The support for a more restrained American role has grown markedly since the question was last asked, in April 2003, a month after the invasion of Iraq. And it suggests Mr. Obama is in tune with the public mood in his refusal to be drawn into the bloody civil war in Syria.
"We don't have the finances for it, we have problems of our own, and we have to solve our own issues before we take on everyone else's problems," Michael Burt, 54, of Creedmoor, N.C., who worked in hotel security but is now on disability leave, said in a follow-up interview.
Even as Americans signal a desire to draw inward, however, they appear sensitive to the nation's growing vulnerability to attacks on its computer systems. An overwhelming majority said cyberattacks were a very serious or somewhat serious threat, with nearly six in 10 saying the United States is not adequately prepared for them.
More than half of Americans said the United States should never conduct cyberattacks against another country, while about a third said such attacks should be carried out. The Bush and Obama administrations, working with the Israelis, have made covert attacks against Iran's nuclear program.
For Mr. Obama, who shuffled his national-security ranks this week by naming Susan E. Rice as national security adviser, the poll brought a mixed verdict on foreign policy. Forty-five percent approved of his stewardship and 39 percent disapproved.
The administration's handling of the attack on the mission in Benghazi, Libya, continues to cast a shadow. Fifty-three percent of people said it was "mostly hiding something" about the attack, while 34 percent said it was "mostly telling the truth."
At the same time, people were cynical about the motives of Republicans in denouncing administration officials, including Ms. Rice, over Benghazi. Nearly six in 10 said the criticisms were mainly for political reasons, as opposed to a search for the truth.
When people were quizzed about the level of American engagement in April 2003, 48 percent said the United States should take the lead, while 43 percent said it should not. In the latest poll, only 35 percent said it should take the lead; 58 percent said it should not.
The evolution of those attitudes is in line with some of the ideas that Mr. Obama laid out last month for how the United States should handle counterterrorism in the post-9/11 era -- a strategy that continues to rely on the use of drones. Seventy-two percent of people supported using drones to kill terrorism suspects, though there was significant concern that they kill innocent people and are not subject to adequate oversight.
Mr. Obama's renewed promise to close the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and transfer the inmates found little support, however. Fifty-eight percent of people said it should remain open, while only 34 percent said it should be closed.
The telephone poll was conducted on both landlines and cellphones from May 31 to June 4 with 1,022 adults nationwide and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Mark Landler reported from Washington, and Allison Kopicki from New York. Megan Thee-Brenan and Dalia Sussman contributed reporting from New York.world
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.