American voters between the ages of 18 and 29 are the least supportive of increasing U.S. troop presence in Asia, believing that their forward-deployment risks escalating rather than deterring China's response, a new survey has found.

Iran PressAmerica: The survey "Rethinking American Strength: What Divides (and Unites) Voting-Age Americans," was released this week by the Eurasia Group Foundation. It posed over 40 foreign policy-related questions to more than 2,000 Americans of voting age.

Overall, support for moving more troops onto bases in allied countries such as Japan and South Korea, as well as increasing U.S. naval presence in the Pacific Ocean, grew to 55.4%. In two previous surveys, respondents were about evenly split but this year saw a five percentage point jump in support, likely due to China's growing power and influence in the region.

Yet among the youngest age group, support for increasing troop levels in Asia was 43.5%, while 56.5% called for a decreased presence.

Others argued that U.S. military power is needed to stop Beijing from attempting to undermine democratic values around the globe, for example through debt-trap diplomacy or spreading its authoritarian capitalism.

Especially popular among the younger respondents was the view that the presence of American troops creates a spiral of escalation in Asia and that China may feel the need to respond aggressively, thus creating an unnecessary risk of war.

"The young generation is surprisingly realist," Mark Hannah, one of the authors of the report and a senior fellow at EGF, told Nikkei Asia.

He said the generational divide may be related to the "skepticism about the use of force to pursue idealistic aims" among the younger group.

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"The 18 to 29-year-old group is the age group most keen to increase diplomatic engagement on things like human rights and climate change but they're more pessimistic about potential for domestic renewal, more likely to think America is not an exceptional nation, and in general less likely to support more coercive means," he said.

"This might not be surprising when you consider they came of age during America's unsuccessful regime-changing, democracy-promoting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and didn't live through the Cold War triumph, let alone World War II, after which American military and economic power helped build an international order we have today."

The generational divide appeared in other questions as well. The 18-29 age group hold, by far, the least positive views of drone strikes out of any age group, with 57% having a negative opinion compared to 16% of respondents aged 60 and older.

They also want to spend less on defense. Among the 18-29 group, 53.8% said the U.S. should decrease defense spending, 33.3% said it should be maintained as is, and 12.9% called for an increase. 


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