from The Water's Edge

Campaign 2016 Friday Foreign Policy Roundup: More Terrorism Polls

Mementos adorn a shrine to the victims of the San Bernardino attack. (Sandy Huffaker/Courtesy Reuters)

December 11, 2015

Mementos adorn a shrine to the victims of the San Bernardino attack. (Sandy Huffaker/Courtesy Reuters)
Blog Post
Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

More on:

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Politics and Government

Elections and Voting

United States

Polls and Public Opinion

The New York Times and CBS released a new poll this morning showing that terrorism tops the public’s list of the most important issues facing the country. Fourteen percent of Americans point to terrorism in general and another 5 percent mention Islamic extremists. So does this mean foreign policy rather than domestic policy now is foremost in the public’s mind?

Not quite. Here are the complete poll results:

What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?

December 4-8, 2015
Terrorism general 14
Economy 8
Politicians/Government 8
Guns 6
Immigration 5
Islamic extremists/ISIS 5
Crime 4
Jobs 4
Health care 3
Budget Deficit 2
President 2
Environment 2
Religious Values 2
Education 1
Defense 1
Poverty 1
Foreign Policy 1
Moral Values 1
Welfare 1
War 1
Abortion -
Taxes -
Other 24
DK/NA 4

 

So while terrorism does top the list—after, of course, you exclude "other" as a category—the public cites domestic issues more often than foreign policy. If immigration counts as a foreign policy issue, then 43 percent of Americans flagged domestic issues while 27 percent flagged foreign policy ones. (I have no idea whether "president" belongs to the foreign or domestic policy bucket, so it’s not counted in these totals.)

The public’s foreign policy focus is also very narrow. China, Russia, Cuba, climate change, trade—all the topics that foreign policy experts spend hours arguing over and writing about—aren’t breaking through into the public’s consciousness. The generic category "foreign policy" registers a mere 1 percent in the poll.

Are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents all worried about the same things? If they aren’t, then Democratic and GOP candidates would have different incentives on what to talk about on the campaign trail. Unfortunately, the survey results posted on the Times website don’t answer that question.

In Case You Missed It

The Times/CBS poll isn’t the only new poll out this week. A Bloomberg Politics/Purple Strategies PulsePoll found that 65 percent of likely GOP primary voters favor Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban all Muslims who aren’t U.S. citizens from entering the United States while 75 percent of likely Democratic primary voters oppose it. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found a similar, though less dramatic, split. A new Gallup Poll found that public confidence in the ability of the U.S. government to protect its citizens from terrorism has hit a new low at 55 percent.

John Kasich stopped by CFR’s New York offices on Tuesday to outline his vision for national security policyHillary Clinton presented her plan to defeat global terrorMarco Rubio discussed his plan for defeating ISIS, as did Lindsey Graham, whose website calls his proposal the #GrahamPlanTed Cruz released a television ad, “Dangerous,” explaining his plan for defeating radical Islamic terrorism. Rand Paul wrote an op-ed on how to destroy the Islamic State without destroying the Constitution. Bernie Sanders went in a different direction entirely and released his plan to combat climate changeBen Carson announced his foreign policy advisors and that he plans to travel to three yet-to-be-named countries in Africa the week after Christmas. Meanwhile, Donald Trump may not be going to Israel as soon as expected.

The New Yorker offers “the Republican war of words on ISIS.”

Looking Ahead

CNN and Salem Radio will host the next Republican debate this coming Tuesday, December 15, at the Venetian in Las Vegas. Wolf Blitzer, Dana Bash, and Hugh Hewitt will moderate. CNN will offer a live stream from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. EST, covering both the early debate for candidates falling lower in the polls and the main prime-time debate, which is slated to begin at 8:45 p.m. EST. Candidates can qualify for the prime-time event in one of three ways: reaching 3.5 percent in the national polls, 4 percent in Iowa, or 4 percent in New Hampshire. Candidates have until December 13 to garner qualifying numbers. Carson, Cruz, Kasich, Rubio, Trump, Jeb BushChris Christie, and Carly Fiorina are all expected to make the prime time debate. That’s right, Rand Paul may not make it into the prime-time debate this time around. Despite some suggestions otherwise, Trump says he will participate. If you are in Las Vegas next Tuesday, you can attend a Rubio rally, a Trump rally, or a Paul rally. If you’re counting, we are 52 days from the Iowa caucuses, 60 days from the New Hampshire primary, and 333 days from Election Day.

More on:

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Politics and Government

Elections and Voting

United States

Polls and Public Opinion

Up
Close