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Poll finds doubts on democracy doctrine

WASHINGTON -- The American public has doubts about whether the Bush administration policy of promoting democracy internationally will make the world safer, according to a poll released yesterday.

A poll conducted by the University of Maryland found that just over a quarter, 28 percent, of people surveyed said they think the world is safer when there are more democracies, while more than twice as many, 68 percent, said democracy may make life better within a country but does not make the world safer.

The poll was conducted by the university's Program on International Policy Attitudes in association with the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.

The program director, Steven Kull, said the poll indicates most people have not bought into President Bush's contention that ''promoting democracy is a critical means for fighting terrorism and making the world safer."

Bush has made promoting democracy around the world a centerpiece of the war on terrorism.

''When freedom and democracy take root in the Middle East, America and the world will be safer and more peaceful," Bush said in March. He has voiced the theme frequently throughout the last year.

Karen Hughes, an undersecretary of state, has been traveling around the Middle East promoting democracy and trying to improve the US image overseas.

Republicans surveyed had nearly as many doubts as other respondents regarding Bush's theory that increasing democracy makes the world safer. Only a third of Republicans, 34 percent, said they agree with that idea.

The administration is counting on democracy in Iraq to eventually bring an end to that war after Iraqis have voted on a constitution and held new elections.

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