Nearly half of those surveyed in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll want the U.S. to be less active on the world stage, a trend that cuts across party lines and shows how more than 12 years of constant conflict has affected the public mood.

The findings aren't good news for President Obama, though. The poll showed that approval of his handling of foreign policy was at 38 percent -- the lowest level of his presidency.

But that's not the only problem. Since taking office, Obama has presented his foreign policy as more deliberate and low-key compared to that of former President George W. Bush. In a defense of his administration's approach last week, Obama used a baseball metaphor, saying his efforts avoided error by going for base hits rather than swinging for the fences.

But though the president has pulled back in many ways -- withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and preparing to do so in Afghanistan, for example -- he's also been more aggressive -- increasing the drone war and launching a bombing campaign in Libya that helped overthrow Moammar Gadhafi and threw the north African country into chaos.

Meanwhile, the president's weak response to the growing crisis in Ukraine, combined with a spending plan for the Pentagon would leave the U.S. dangerously unprepared to meet challenges from foreign powers that can't be resolved by diplomacy alone, leaves open the possibility that events could dramatically shift the public mood, just as the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, did.