In America’s largest military operations in recent years, Afghanistan and Iraq, there is no evidence that Trump made any significant difference to Republican attitudes. Despite negotiating with the Taliban to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan by 2021, a Chicago Council poll of nationally representative samples of self-described Republicans found that the war in January 2020 was more worth the cost (50 percent) than in 2014 ( 34 percent). Similarly, half of Republicans (51 percent) thought the war in Iraq was worth the cost in January 2020, up from 40 percent in 2014. Perhaps even more surprising were those who identified as strong Republicans – who described themselves as very conservative and were more supportive of Trump – actually were More Probably less committed Republicans have said the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were worth it (55 percent strong Republicans versus 43 percent less committed Republicans for Afghanistan and nearly identical numbers for Iraq). The same January 2020 poll found that a solid majority of Republicans also supported long-term U.S. military bases in Afghanistan (61 percent), Iraq (69 percent), and Kuwait (71 percent).
Trump also failed to change the GOP’s views on the military campaign against ISIS, an issue he was not clear about in office. Trump who pledged In the “ISIS bombing” campaign, ISIS initially continued President Barack Obama’s efforts against the group, but later attempted to declare victory and withdraw US troops from Iraq and Syria. However, in the final year of his presidency, the vast majority of Republicans continued to support the use of violence against extremists in those countries (66 percent in 2020, exactly the percentage that supported them in 2015). In general, a majority of Republican voters have consistently advocated an active role for the US in the world over the past few decades, with two-thirds – sometimes more – advocating an active role since 2016.
Even when it came to Trump’s signature question on immigration, his nativism did not prevail. While the majority of Republicans routinely cite immigration as a critical threat to the United States (61 percent in 2020, similar to previous results), Republicans actually did become in the Trump years More open to offering undocumented immigrants a route to citizenship (52 percent support in 2020 versus 37 percent in 2015). This trend was true for both strong and less dedicated Republicans. Among the strong Republicans, support for a route to citizenship rose from 32 percent in 2015 to 45 percent in 2020. Among the less committed Republicans, it rose from 43 percent in 2015 to 60 percent in 2020. At the same time, Republicans supported the deportation overall between 2015 and 2020 steadily decreased (from 45 percent to 34 percent).
On trade, a crossover theme that spans foreign and domestic policy, The picture is a bit more mixed. With strong business support, a majority of Republican lawmakers have voted in favor of every major trade deal over the past few decades, from the North American free trade deal negotiated by Bill Clinton to the Trump deal between the United States, Mexico and Canada. And despite Trump’s sharp attacks on many trade deals and a propensity to impose protectionist tariffs, the Chicago Council poll found that Republican support for international trade actually rose from 51 percent in 2016 to 87 percent in 2019. At the same time, the majority of Republicans in 2019 supported Trump’s more protectionist trade stance with Beijing, with seven out of ten in favor of increasing tariffs on Chinese products. Taken together, the results suggest that Republicans largely support international trade but believe in Trump’s ability to reach trade deals that would benefit the United States.
Trump appears to have had some sway over Republican views of U.S. alliances, due to his disdain for NATO and the American alliance’s commitments to Japan and South Korea. Chicago Council polls found that between 2019 and 2020, the percentage of Republican Party supporters who believed the United States should maintain or step up its commitment to NATO fell from 71 percent to 60 percent, the lowest Republican figure in shortly after the Vietnam War in 1974). The decline in commitment to NATO was slightly steeper for strong Republicans (from 69 percent in 2019 to 54 percent in 2020) than for less committed Republicans (73 percent to 67 percent).
However, this skepticism was not due to Trump. Republican Party supporters have been divided over the role of the US military in protecting American allies for years. Between 2014 and 2020, Republicans were quite divided on whether the United States should defend NATO’s Baltic allies. And in the Pacific, the party’s supporters were almost equally divided over whether the United States should use troops if North Korea attacks South Korea. Support grew over the next few years after Pyongyang successfully fired an ICBM and Trump threatened it with “fire and fury”: A majority of Republicans were in favor of defending South Korea (69 percent in 2017 and 2018 and 63 percent in 2019) ). However, this number soon approached the historic level in 2020 (57 percent).
When it comes to China, Republicans have increased their falsehood in recent years. A group of GOP lawmakers even introduced laws that empower the president to defend Taiwan against Chinese attack. However, like the American public in general, simple Republican Party supporters are reluctant to confront China if it invades Taiwan, although support for the island’s defense rose from 25 percent in 2014 to a high of 43 percent in 2020 in recent polls .
After all, Trump has not pushed the party to take a more one-sided approach to world politics. Most Republicans do not believe that the United States should compromise its political positions in order to reach an agreement at the United Nations, and in fact the percentage that was in favor of a compromise fell between 2019 and 2020 (from 44 percent to 37 percent, and the decline was even stronger among these Republicans). But the shift is not unprecedented. The data shows similar declines in strong Republicans in 2008 and 2010, possibly as a result of a reaction against Obama’s multilateralism. In addition, the Republicans were somewhat more supportive of compromising American politics in decisions made together with allies (57 percent in 2020). In short, despite Trump’s influence, not all Republicans believe that the United States should always put “America first”.
Republicans have been divided over the use of the military, immigration, trade, international cooperation, and engagement overseas for decades – and Trump has failed to bridge that divide. This debate took place in the Balkans as early as the 1990s. In a series of votes on the intervention there, Republican lawmakers were all on the map: while hawks like then Senate majority leader Bob Dole called for the use of US military power, other Republicans like former Senator Phil Gramm argued that the United States shouldn’t get involved in messy conflicts. The same fundamental intra-party split has hawks like Graham from libertarians like Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) – and more recently from Trumpist nationalists like Hawley – in debates over US interventions in Libya, Syria and the United States USA separated Afghanistan.
The divided reaction to Biden’s Afghanistan decision is only the latest sign that the Future of republican foreign policy is to be won. Trump clearly retains tremendous influence over the GOP, and Trumpists remain the loudest voices in the party. But their influence over the foreign policy party is minimal at best, and there remains a large Republican constituency that does not share their views.
These results confirm the predictions of some Republicans who expect the party’s pendulum to swing back in an internationalist direction. Public opinion certainly suggests that Republicans have an opportunity to return in support of free trade, immigration, and a strong overseas military presence that has shaped the foreign policy of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.
Republicans’ foreign policy divisions existed through many presidencies before Donald Trump. Trump’s rhetoric may have fueled anti-immigration and unilateralist sentiments within the party. But it didn’t fundamentally change the fact that the GOP never agreed on internationalism or any sharp-edged brand of nationalism. As we head into 2024, it will be up to Republican elites and influencers to decide whether to duplicate Trump’s America First vision or turn to the outward-looking perspective that remains surprisingly widespread among Republican voters.