Foreign policy issues rank low among voter priorities

By Gabriel Debenedetti
October 22, 2012

Hype for the third and final presidential debate tonight has been considerably less than for the two previous face-offs — perhaps for good reason. The debate is focused on foreign policy, and Americans don’t seem to care that much about it.

“War/foreign conflicts” and “terrorism/terrorist attacks” tied for a spot near the bottom of a list of issues from which respondents were asked to identify the most important, in Reuters/Ipsos polls conducted since January. Only 2 percent of likely voters saw each of those two as issues of top importance.

In October, 43 percent of likely voters said the economy was the most important issue and 25 percent pointed to “unemployment/lack of jobs,” followed by healthcare (7 percent), morality (5 percent), “other” (5 percent), education (4 percent) and immigration (3 percent).

Not a single foreign policy-related issue has made it to 5 percent since the polling began in January, despite the recent unrest in the Middle East.

The agenda for tonight’s debate says moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News will ask President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney about the United States’ role in the world; Afghanistan and Pakistan; Israel and Iran; China and the future; and the Middle East and terrorism.

While few voters see these as the nation’s most prominent issues, they are opinionated about foreign policy.

Fifty-four percent of likely voters said American foreign policy was on the wrong track during the week ending October 21, and just 30 percent approved of Obama’s handling of it in September, the last time that question was asked.

Obama held an eight-point lead over Romney — 41 percent to 33 percent — on the question, “Which presidential candidate has the better plan for the war on terror?”

But on the issue of recent anti-American violence in the Middle East, most recently in Benghazi, Libya, a plurality of voters — 28 percent — said they “strongly disapprove” of Obama’s handling of the matter. Still, Romney did not fare much better: Twenty-six percent said they didn’t know how he handled the violence, and 18 percent said they strongly disapproved of his reaction.

The Reuters/Ipsos database is now public and searchable here: http://www.tinyurl.com/reuterspoll

2 comments

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it may not be that big of a deal for voters but it sure is a big deal for the rest of the world

Posted by Sushi6 | Report as abusive

As a result of poor education and militaristic national DNA, Americans just don’t care whom they are invading anymore, or on what flimsy pretexts they do it. But the costs (in trillions) of endless wars are bankrupting the country and hijacking more useful national priorities.

Posted by precaffeinated | Report as abusive