from The Water's Edge

Campaign 2016 Friday Foreign Policy Roundup: Terrorism Concerns Grow

American flags fly at half-staff to honor the victims of the Paris attacks. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

December 4, 2015

American flags fly at half-staff to honor the victims of the Paris attacks. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)
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Last month I wrote that domestic policy issues were trumping foreign policy ones in the minds of the American voters. In one poll, eight in ten Americans said that domestic issues would have the biggest impact on their choice for president; slightly less than two in ten named a foreign policy issue. But I noted at the time that events could scramble those priorities. So have the horrific Paris attacks changed voter priorities?

Washington Post-ABC News poll done in the week after the attacks sheds light on the question. People were asked what “is the single most important issue in your choice for president? Is it the economy, health care, immigration issues, tax policy, or the threat of terrorism?” Here’s the result:

%
Economy 33
Terrorism 28
Health care 13
Immigration 10
Tax policy 5
Other (vol.) 1
Any 2 or more (vol.) 9
None (vol.) 1
Unsure 1

 

So domestic policy issues continue to matter most to a majority of voters. But not surprisingly, foreign policy—or to be precise, terrorism—has jumped in importance. Now three in ten voters say it tops their priority list, four in ten if immigration is counted as a foreign rather than a domestic policy issue. Given that the poll question didn’t offer a range of foreign policy choices, the table above might understate how highly foreign policy issues rate with voters. But based on how seldom specific foreign policy issues show up on more open-ended surveys, any understatement is likely to be small. At the same time, the poll was done in the immediate shadow of the Paris attacks, which would tend to maximize the likelihood that voters are thinking about foreign policy.

The tragic shootings this week in San Bernardino most likely will fuel even greater public concern about terrorism and foreign policy—at least for a time. The open question is whether the change in what voters are worried about will change the outcome of next fall’s vote. That’s a complicated question, and one I’ll take up in a subsequent post.

In Case You Missed It

Donald Trump gave an interview to the Associated Press about his views on Middle East peace. Jeb Bush wrote that he will “restore resolve, consistency, and moral clarity to America’s efforts to combat terrorism.” Ben Carson put out a new campaign ad, “Winning, Not Whining,” which blames President Obama and Hillary Clinton for “failed tough talk but do nothing policies [that] are responsible for the melt down in the Middle East.” In an interview with RealClearRadio, Lindsey Graham argued that Ted Cruz has "done more to allow ISIL to gain a foothold in Syria than any Senator other than Rand Paul." Speaking of Senator Paul, he invoked the memory of John Foster Dulles—when was the last time that name popped up during a presidential campaign?—to denounce “the Clinton/Rubio foreign policy” of using force to liberate oppressed countries. Senator Rubio went on the radio to discuss how he would defeat ISIS, which he called an “apocalyptic jihadist group.

Politico discussed how Carson is trying to correct course on national security. The Week argued that Senator Cruz is offering voters a “surprisingly sensible foreign policy.” Bloomberg examined “the immigration questions Ted Cruz won’t answer.” Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wrote an op-ed on “the kind of president we need.” A new Quinnipiac University poll found that a majority of Americans believe that “homegrown jihadists [are] more dangerous than refugees.”

Looking Ahead

The next Republican debate is on December 15 in Las Vegas, Nevada. CNN and Salem Radio will broadcast the event. Wolf Blitzer, Dana Bash, and Hugh Hewitt will moderate. To qualify for the debate, candidates must poll at least 3 percent nationally or 4 percent in Iowa or New Hampshire. The next Democratic debate will be on December 19 in Manchester, New Hampshire. ABC and its local affiliate WMUR are the hosts, and Josh McElveen, David Muir, and Martha Raddatz will moderate. If you’re counting, we are now 59 days away from the Iowa caucuses, and 340 days from Election Day.

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