Clinton, Trump Supporters Express Wildly Divergent Views on Foreign Policy

Manhattan billionaire Donald Trump has been the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee since May 3, 2016, when Ted Cruz dropped out of the race. His likely opponent in November’s presidential showdown will be Democrat Hillary Clinton, a former senator, first lady, and secretary of state.

On matters of foreign policy, the two candidates couldn’t be more different. Clinton has spent more than a decade making foreign policy. Her record includes lobbying for the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya and helping build support for international sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program. She is often referred to as a “hawk”, which roughly means being unafraid of using American military might to further national interests.

Trump has no experience in foreign policy, and scarcely more in the way of coherent views. He is apparently a stern opponent of free trade, has expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin, and believes that NATO membership has become burdensome for the United States. While pledging to focus on “rebuilding the US”, he has also promised to strengthen American military capabilities and make the so-called Islamic State disappear “very, very quickly.”

It is impossible to predict what Trump will do tomorrow, let alone how he would behave once in the White House. Clinton’s policies are also difficult to project, given that pressure from her primary opponent, left-wing populist Bernie Sanders, has recently pushed her to the left on some issues.

A survey published on May 5, 2016 by the Pew Research Center paints a vivid picture of the voters behind the two candidates, and may be helpful in predicting what a Clinton or Trump presidency would look like. The Pew survey was conducted in April, with field researchers conducting telephone calls with 2,008 adults across the United States.

Clinton and Trump supporters see the world through different eyes. For example, the survey found that 85 percent of self-professed Trump supporters consider large numbers of refugees from Syria to be a “major threat” to the United States. By contrast, 40 percent of Clinton supporters gave the same answer.

Seventy-seven percent of Trump supporters favor the use of “overwhelming force” to defeat international terrorist organizations, compared to only 30 percent of Clinton supporters. The latter group are more than twice as likely to believe that overwhelming force exacerbates the problem by fueling anti-American sentiment.

Predictably, Trump backers are less enthusiastic about NATO. Sixty-four percent of them report viewing the alliance as “good for the US.” That is compared to 83 percent of Clinton supporters. Overall, 77 percent of Americans believe the alliance is good for their country, although most also believe that the NATO allies benefit at America’s expense.

Whereas Trump supporters are lukewarm about NATO, 66 percent of them want to see increased US military spending. Only 21 percent of Clinton supporters feel the same. These numbers show the disparities between the views of the candidates and those of their respective constituencies. Clinton envisions a US that is more engaged with the wider world, whereas Trump promises to be more inward looking (although he has verbally appealed to militarism throughout his campaign).

One question on which the two camps agree concerns the use of force against ISIS. Sixty-nine percent of Clinton supporters and 66 percent of Trump supporters favor the current US military campaign against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. (A nearly-identical 66 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of Democrats favor the military action, making it one of the few issues that Americans agree on).

The two camps have widely divergent views on global economic policy as well. Sixty-five percent of Trump supporters view US involvement in the global economy in a negative way, responding that it “lowers wages” and “costs jobs” in the domestic economy. Only 36 percent of Clinton supporters gave the same answer. Republican voters in general were more likely to have a poor view of America’s role in the global economy. This indicates a reversal of orthodoxy, where the Republicans are viewed as the party of free trade and open markets and the Democrats being seen as more likely to favor protectionist measures.

The Pew survey can be read in full here:

Joseph Larsen

26 May 2016 14:51