New Poll: Voters Want to Hear About Foreign Policy

New polling data released this morning suggests that American voters care deeply about the foreign policy positions of the candidates for president. A new poll by the bi-partisan polling duo of Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research Associates, conducted on behalf of the Better World Campaign, shows that 74% of voters rate a candidate’s position on international issues and foreign policy as being important in determining how they will vote. For comparison’s sake, the same poll shows that 96% rate a candidate’s position on the economy and jobs as being important in determining how they will vote.

So, a candidate’s position on foreign policy matters to about 3 out of 4 voters! Still, 47% of voters said the candidates are not spending enough time discussing foreign policy issues.

When they do discuss foreign policy, what do voters want to hear? This open ended question provides the most important insight into what kinds of foreign policy issues are on the minds of American voters today.

Here’s the question and responses in full:

We asked an interesting open-ended question to better understand what voters want to hear from the presidential candidates heading into the foreign policy debate next week.

We asked respondents the following question: “As you may be aware, the presidential debate on foreign policy will be happening in about two weeks. Thinking specifically about foreign policy and international issues that deal with things happening outside of the United States and deal with things around the world, what one or two foreign policy questions would you want to ask the presidential candidates? What specifically would you want to hear them talk about on foreign policy in the debate?”

 The topics most important to voters is to make sure the candidates address questions about:

o Ending the war in Afghanistan/bring troops home;

o The impact of our relationship and support of Israel;

o How to address the development of nuclear weapons in Iran;

o What to do in the Middle East;

o Our continuous involvement in wars;

o About our aid to other countries;

o Dealing with terrorism;

o Our economic involvement and dependence on China/Asia; and,

o National security/border security.

Those top three answers are instructive and provide an opportunity for those who believe in international cooperation to make the argument that institutions like the United Nations can be useful. In Afghanistan, for example, the United Nations is undertaking key civilian institution building efforts (like training judges, helping create a competent civil service; supporting a health care system) that complement the security efforts of the United States and NATO. UN humanitarian agencies like UNICEF and the World Food Program are helping to provide for the basic needs of millions of Afghans. Also, the UN will be in Afghanistan long after the USA leaves to support Afghan institutions.  On Iran, the UN Security Council has shown remarkable unity in imposing the strictest set of sanctions in history. The UN’s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, is providing important, credible and neutral monitoring around which the international community.

Previous polling from this bi-partisan polling duo has shown that contrary to popular impression, voters overwhelmingly support between the USA and the UN. In the foreign policy debate next week, the United Nations will inevitably come up. Both candidates could profit by refraining from UN bashing and instead explain how the UN can and does help advance American interests on the foreign policy issues that voters care about most.

Full polling data here.