In our latest PredictWise/Pollfish poll, American voters strongly favor increasing spending on national defense, but are divided on how to use this larger military. There is unified concern over Iran, but the US has a surprisingly partisan divide on aggression towards Russia and China, along with NATO.
Both Trump and Clinton voters want to increase spending on national defense. 68 percent of Trump voters and 53 percent of Clinton voters support increase. Just 24 percent of Trump voters and 38 percent of Clinton voters oppose a spending increase. But, how should the US spend that increase?
“How do you feel about loosening US commitment to the NATO military alliance?” Trump voters favor loosening commitment to NATO with 59 percent to just 22 percent opposing. Clinton voters are a much more concerned about United States’ long-standing European alliance with 64 percent opposing any loosening of the US commitment and just 19 percent supporting.
“How do you feel about US warming relations with Russia?” This is a very similar breakdown to the NATO support. Trump voters strongly favor warming relations with Russia, with 74 percent supporting and just 14 percent opposing. Clinton voters are not so friendly with Putin’s Russia, just 23 percent support warming relations, while 64 percent oppose.
“Should US increase military presence opposing China?” This break is extreme, but not quite as extreme as the NATO and Russia divides. While Trump voters are all about warming relations with Russia 60 percent support an increase military presence opposing China and just 24 percent oppose. Clinton voters are completely reversed with 29 percent supporting increase, but 47 percent opposing.
Trump voters want tighter relationship with Russia, while threatening China and backing away from NATO. Clinton voters disagree. “How do you feel about a military solution to try to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons?” Here is there a consensus, with 87 percent of Trump voters supporting a military solution to preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons and 55 percent of Clinton voter agreeing.
Trump has succeeded in flipping his voters from their long-standing concern over Russia to a newly heightened concern for China, but his voters are confident that he will not take it too far. Just 19 percent of Trump voters think there will be a military conflict with China that results in the loss of life before the end of his first term. But, Clinton voters are taking him seriously, with 58 percent expecting loss of life as a result of the escalating tension.
Tobias Konitzer is a PhD candidate in communication at Stanford University. Find him on Twitter @KonitzerTobias.
Sam Corbett-Davies is a PhD candidate at Stanford University in computer science. Find him on Twitter @scorbettdavies.
David Rothschild is an economist at Microsoft Research. Find him on Twitter @DavMicRot.