Americans Losing Trust in Republicans on Foreign Policy

Traditionally a strong suit of the right, Democrats are now trusted more to conduct America’s foreign policy.

The South Portico of the White House in Washington DC, July 27, 2012
The South Portico of the White House in Washington DC, July 27, 2012 (Wikimedia Commons/Carlos Delgado)

Americans are losing their faith in Republicans to conduct their country’s foreign policy. Traditionally a strong suit of the right, President Barack Obama’s Democrats are now trusted more on the issue, the Pew Research Center found.

Republicans still have a ten-point lead when it comes to handling terrorist threats. But only 38 percent of Americans say Republicans would run foreign affairs better against 41 percent who trust Democrats.

This compares to a one-point advantage Republicans had on foreign policy last year.

Americans’ waning confidence in the Republican Party’s ability to conduct foreign policy coincides with a general decline in trust. Only 29 percent say Republicans govern in an ethical and honest way against 45 percent who say Democrats do. 52 percent of Americans find Republicans “more extreme” in their positions. Only 35 percent would say the same about Democrats.

Curiously, a majority of Americans also believes Obama is “not tough enough” in his handling of foreign policy. 53 percent hold that view. Only 38 percent did when he came to office in January 2009. Half of Americans said he got foreign policy “just right” at the time. Now only 37 percent does.

The fact that disapproval of the president’s foreign policy isn’t translating into higher support for Republicans should worry those seeking to replace him.

Although Pew didn’t ask Americans why they trust Republicans less, it may not be a stretch to speculate that voters are tiring of the party’s warmongering — especially when taking into account the growing perception of Republicans as “extreme”.

Republicans launched an ill-fated invasion of Iraq in 2003 and now criticize a nuclear deal with Iran that Obama says is the only way to avoid war with that country. His victory in 2008 over John McCain, a Republican hawk, was at least partially due to widespread opposition to the Iraq War which Obama opposed from the start.

Most Republican presidential contenders, including frontrunner Jeb Bush — the former Florida governor whose brother, George W., started the Iraq War — say the agreement Obama negotiated with Iran will not stop it from developing nuclear weapons and that his administration should have taken a harder line in negotiations.