Wednesday, October 12, 2016

American Public Opinion on US Foreign Policy 2016

On October 6, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in partnership with The Washington Post and the Wilson Center released its 2016 Survey of American Public Opinion on US Foreign Policy entitled America in the Age of Uncertainty, (48 pgs, conducted June 10-27, 2016] with a panel of experts—Council President Ivo Daalder, Wilson Center President Jane Harman, Kori Schake of the Hoover Institution, report author and senior Council fellow Dina Smeltz, and moderator Jackson Diehl of The Washington Post.

Trump backers are the least likely to support globalization and to say that free trade has been good for the US economy. They are also least likely to support the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. 

However, Trump has questioned long-standing tenets of US foreign policy, including US alliance commitments to Japan and South Korea; while Trump’s core supporters stand with his policy stances on trade, globalization, and immigration, they do not align with his views on broader international engagement. 

Among the overall public, 89 percent say that maintaining existing alliances is very or somewhat effective at achieving US foreign policy goals. That view has bipartisan support: Democrats (94%), Republicans (88%), and Independents (86%) all view maintaining existing alliances as very or somewhat effective, as do 84 percent of core Trump supporters. 

Trump’s supporters favor projecting US military power abroad through basing. Core Trump supporters are as or more likely than other Americans to support long-term US military bases in Japan and South Korea. In general, support for maintaining U.S. military bases in South Korea is at an all-time high with 70 percent polled saying that the United States should maintain long-term bases, up from 64 percent in 2015. Maintaining bases in Japan found overall support at 60 percent, and maintaining bases in Australia at 46 percent.

One reason for this increased support appears to be the growing perception of North Korea as a critical threat to the United States. In 2016, six in ten Americans thought that North Korea’s nuclear program is a critical threat to the United States. That trails only international terrorism (75 percent critical) and is virtually tied with the possibility of unfriendly countries becoming nuclear powers (61 percent) on a list of 13 possible threats. For North Korea’s nuclear program, this is a 5 percentage point increase from 2015 when the question was first asked.

An overall majority of Americans favor cooperating with China (63%) over actively working to limit its influence. The report suggests that although Donald Trump has gained traction in the presidential race, his views on important issues garner only minority support from the overall American public.

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