20 October 2012

Americans increasingly belligerent as foreign policy debate looms

On Monday, Obama and Romney will debate foreign policy. Recent surveys indicate that Americans, on at least two important issues, are feeling increasingly hard-nosed which probably means advantage Romney.

Regarding Iran's nuclear program, early in the year more Americans felt it was more important to take a firm stand (50 per cent) than to avoid war (41 per cent). That view has now hardened to 56/35. In dealing with China, last March more Americans felt that building a stronger relationship (53 per cent) was more important than getting tougher (40 per cent). That has now sharply reversed with 49 per cent wanting to get tougher and only 42 per cent wanting to build a stronger relationship.

As to who is best qualified to handle foreign policy, Obama still has an edge of 47 per cent to 43 per cent but Romney is gaining fast, up 11 points since September. Furthermore, he has a nine-point lead on dealing with China on trade issues.

Perhaps also favourable to Romney is the view of 54 per cent of Americans that it is more important to have stable governments in the Middle East even if it means less democracy while only 30 per cent say it is more important to have democratic governments. Hardly a vote of confidence in democracy.

Obama has persisted with a number of conservative, Bush-era policies—reauthorizing the Patriot Act, maintaining Guantanamo, using military tribunals, expanding drone attacks, etc.—but this may not be enough to win him favour with an increasingly belligerent America. We shall see, I suppose, Monday night, and of course on November 6th.

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