Older Americans much more likely to favor ‘tougher’ foreign policy

The American public favors President TrumpDonald John TrumpPaul Ryan defends Navy admiral after Trump's criticism Trump discussing visit overseas to troops following criticism: report Retired Army General: Trump is ‘acting like an 8th grader’ in attacking ex-Navy SEAL who led bin Laden operation MORE getting “tougher” in his policies toward multiple foreign powers, according to a new Hill.TV poll.

In a new American Barometer survey, a majority of 1,000 registered voters said they wanted the United States to “be tougher” in its relations with Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, China, and Russia.

While there were some partisan differences in the survey, the bigger dividing line appears to be age, with younger voters much more interested in maintaining the status quo or drawing closer to the nations than older voters.

Among respondents who were between the ages of 18 and 34, North Korea was the only country toward which a majority wanted to see a “tougher” foreign policy.

Strong majorities of voters between 50 and 64 years old and those older than 65 favor more strident American foreign policy. Iran was the most unpopular among those over the age of 65, with 81 percent of respondents saying they wanted the U.S. to get “tougher” toward the Middle Eastern nation. North Korea was the most unpopular among voters between the ages of 50 and 64, with a strong majority of 75 percent saying they wanted a “tougher” policy toward the isolated Asian country.

Voters between the ages of 35 and 49 were almost evenly split in dealing with the five countries. A majority wanted a “tougher” policy toward Iran, North Korea, and Russia while a majority wanted to keep relations the same or make them closer with regard to China and Saudi Arabia.

The American relationship toward the Saudis has come under strain in recent weeks after the country’s monarchy was accused of kidnapping and murdering Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist who became a permanent resident of the U.S. after he criticized Saudi policy.

Since emerging as a presidential candidate in 2016, Trump has been a frequent critic the Iraq war and American involvement in the Middle East. As president, Trump has also accused Democrats of trying to start a war in Syria.

Due to his lack of experience in political office, some Trump critics believed he might start large armed conflicts.

“I think going into the presidency, I heard a lot in focus groups people being worried that he would start a war, start a war. And I think the longer we go without him starting a war, people sort of relax a little bit,” Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg said Monday on Hill.TV’s public opinion show “What's America Thinking.”

In the American Barometer survey, Republicans were much more aggressive toward Iran, which Trump has made a frequent target during his short political career. Seventy-nine percent of self-identified GOP voters said they wanted a more bellicose foreign policy toward Iran.

A smaller majority of Democratic voters, 52 percent, said they wanted the same. Among independents, 61 percent favored “tougher” relations with Iran.

Partisans were split on the subject of relations with China, with 61 percent of Republicans favoring more pugnacious relations toward the country in comparison to just 41 percent of Democrats. Trump has also made China a frequent target of criticism, accusing it of “stealing” American jobs and manufacturing and benefitting unfairly from global trade policies. Self-identified independents were in the middle with 49 percent wanting “tougher” policies and 51 percent wanting to keep things with Beijing the same or closer.

In regards to U.S. dealings with Russia, the survey found comparatively little partisan disagreement with 61 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of Democrats wanting more hard-line policies. Voters who identified themselves as “moderate” were less interested in having the U.S. get “tougher” with Moscow, but tougher policies still see 55 percent support.

The American Barometer survey was conducted online between Oct. 13 and 14 among 1,000 registered voters by HarrisX. The sampling margin of error of the poll is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

—Matthew Sheffield