The Associated Press (AP) and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research published a poll on Tuesday that found nearly twice as many Americans — almost 40 percent — think foreign policy will be a top issue in 2024, compared to the same poll one year ago.
The poll found both Republican and Democrat voters listing foreign policy as a more important issue, although which foreign policy seemed most important varied between respondents. The Israel-Hamas war was an obvious source of growing public anxiety, with about five percent of respondents listing it as a concern, versus “almost no one” who thought Palestinian terrorism and Israel’s response were major issues one year ago.
The Russia-Ukraine war seemed roughly as important as it was in the previous poll, while concerns over China potentially invading Taiwan grew.
A much higher percentage of 2024 respondents were worried about the U.S. becoming involved in overseas conflicts – about 20 percent this time around, compared to five percent last year.
Forty-six percent of Republicans listed foreign policy as a top issue for 2024, versus 23 percent from 2023. In contrast, 34 percent of Democrats named foreign policy vs. 16 percent last year.
The AP noted the economy remains the top issue for voters and speculated economic anxiety might have prodded more foreign policy concerns since many poll respondents were acutely conscious of how much money the U.S. government spends on foreign aid, especially military aid to Ukraine and Israel.
Immigration also surged in importance in the AP poll, which could also be linked to the higher profile of foreign policy issues. Among Republican respondents, 55 percent wanted the government to focus on immigration next year, up from 45 percent last year. For Democrats, it was 22 percent in 2024 versus 14 percent in 2023.
Other pollsters have found a growing interest in foreign policy among American voters, although not usually quite as much of a surge as AP/NORC found. Morning Consult took a poll in October, when the Israel-Hamas conflict dominated headlines, which found 31 percent of Republicans and 29 percent of Democrats rating foreign policy as a top-five concern.
Foreign Policy’s columnists on Tuesday predicted the publication’s namesake issue would remain on the minds of voters throughout the 2024 election, although as with AP/NORC’s poll respondents, their opinions varied on which foreign policy topics would be most influential.
The Red Sea blockade by Iran-backed Houthi terrorists, for example, will certainly have a significant negative impact on the world economy if it continues well into 2024. Some analysts expect China will take steps to correct its deteriorating economy that will capture the attention of U.S. voters, particularly if Beijing manages to push the world further away from relying on the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency. If Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, trade issues with China will likely have a prominent role in the general election contest.
Foreign policy is a notoriously vexing subject for political prognosticators because, in the absence of a clear threat like terrorism after 9/11, voters do not often set aside domestic concerns to vote based on how presidents deal with overseas issues.
The L.A. Times (LAT) in December speculated that 2024 could be a rare example of foreign policy issues hurting the incumbent candidate, as President Joe Biden’s poll numbers on handling foreign crises are dismal, and a chunk of the hard Left is breaking away from him due to his administration’s support for Israel against Hamas.
“Biden has to contend with a voting Middle Eastern diaspora, new human rights norms and mass media capable of relaying round-the-clock images of Palestinian suffering,” the LAT noted.
The LAT also fretted that independent voters “echo the rhetoric of Donald Trump more than Joe Biden” when it comes to expansive – and expensive – use of American power overseas. The new AP/NORC poll found a similar shift of public opinion away for massive spending on foreign aid and military support, which is an unsurprising consequence of domestic economic malaise fueled by irresponsible government spending.