Do Americans Care about Darfur?
Do Americans Care about Darfur?
Table of Contents
  1. Introduction
Special Episode: Sudan at War
Special Episode: Sudan at War
Briefing / Africa 2 minutes

Do Americans Care about Darfur?

For too long, the international approach to the crisis in the western Sudanese region of Darfur has been defined by tough rhetoric followed by half-measures and inaction.

I. Introduction

For too long, the international approach to the crisis in the western Sudanese region of Darfur has been defined by tough rhetoric followed by half-measures and inaction. This general lack of resolve has ensured that widespread attacks against civilians have been conducted with relative immunity in Darfur, and the grinding humanitarian situation has continued to take a heavy toll by any calculation. Major international players have justified their failure to resolve the situation by citing an array of bureaucratic, diplomatic and political hurdles that stand in the way of a more robust response to the situation on the ground.

In that light, the International Crisis Group was particularly keen to more fully explore the attitudes of the American public about the situation in Darfur and what steps it felt were warranted in response. Crisis Group commissioned the respected Zogby International polling firm to conduct a public opinion survey in the United States during May 2005. This briefing is the result of that joint effort. From 9-16 May 2005, 1,000 representative Americans were surveyed on the Darfur questions included in this briefing, as part of a larger 35- question Zogby International Survey.

While the results of the poll are detailed below, several aspects of the findings are most striking. Above all, the breadth of American support -- across party and religious lines -- for a much tougher response to the current situation is striking. Some 84% of respondents said the U.S. should not tolerate an extremist government committing such attacks, and should use its military assets, short of inserting U.S. combat troops on the ground to protect civilians, to help bring them to a halt. There would appear to be much greater public backing for America to play a leadership role in stemming this catastrophe than has been the conventional wisdom in Washington. This includes 81% who supported tough sanctions on Sudanese leaders who control the militias, 80% who backed establishing a no-fly zone over Darfur, and 91% who said the U.S. should cooperate with the International Criminal Court to help bring to justice those accused of crimes against humanity.

Understandably, there was decidedly less support for putting U.S. combat troops on the ground, but the fact that almost 40 percent of respondents favoured this option at a time when the war in Iraq continues to rage and when no U.S. officials have advocated such an option, suggests a widespread belief among the American public that the United States has a fundamental responsibility to directly help protect civilian populations. Given such findings, it is hoped that the United States government will begin to embrace more concerted and direct efforts to end the tragedy in Darfur. Crisis Group will continue to publish frequent analyses of the situation on the ground and policy options.[fn]For Crisis Group's most recent policy briefing see Crisis Group Africa Briefing N°24, A New Sudan Action Plan, 26 April 2005.Hide Footnote

Washington/Brussels, 1 June 2005

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