Campaign 2016

Public Opinion on National Security: A First Installment

By Elizabeth McElvein
Thursday, July 21, 2016, 2:21 PM

Ben has asked me to keep track of public opinion data related to national security on the benefit of Lawfare readers. There are relatively few polls on national security issues specifically, but questions on matters of concern to this readership show up in more general polls all the time. I’ll try to flag them when they do.

Here are two recent examples:

A national poll released by the New York Times on July 14 found that an equal share of Americans identify Hillary Clinton as identify Donald Trump when asked which candidate would do a better job handling terrorism and national security. Forty-six percent of Americans said Hillary Clinton, 46 said Donald Trump, five percent said neither and two gave some other answer. The poll was fielded July 8-12, after the FBI rebuked Clinton for her email practices but before Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed her.

Meanwhile, a CNN-ORC poll released July 17 found that 21 percent of voters identify terrorism as the most important issue in deciding how to vote for president. Terrorism is the second-most-often cited concern, polling behind the economy, which 38 percent of Americans identify as their primary concern. As to which candidate would better handle terrorism as president, Trump enjoys a lead over Clinton (51 to 45 percent respectively). Asked which candidate would better handle foreign policy as president, however, Americans identify Clinton over Trump by an eighteen point margin: 57 to 39 percent, respectively.