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Foreign Policy Analysis
Public Opinion and Foreign Policy in an Unusual Election Year

Public Opinion and Foreign Policy in an Unusual Election Year

This is a really unusual election year. For the first time in decades, a major presidential contender is challenging traditional US foreign policy that’s been in place for more than 70 years. The 2016 Chicago Council Survey on American public opinion questioned more than 2,000 Americans. Results show that anxieties about immigration and trade are key to Donald Trump’s political success. 16 percent of respondents selected Donald Trump as their top choice for president among a list of primary candidates. Among these core Trump supporters, 80 percent see immigration as a critical threat compared to 27 percent of Democrats, 40 percent of Independents, and 67 percent of Republicans. And just 49 percent see globalization as mostly good for the United States, compared to 74 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of Independents, and 59 percent of Republicans. But these concerns are not new. Since 1998 a majority of Republicans have said that immigration is a threat to the United States. And since 2008 Republicans have expressed more negative views on globalization and trade. Overall these views represent only a minority among the American public. 43 percent of Americans see immigration as a threat. And 65 percent of Americans say that globalization is mostly good. But concerns about immigration and trade have grown more prominent in this election. And whoever becomes the next president will have to address these concerns.

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