Americans Divided by Age, Political Party on Foreign Policy

(CN) – The majority of Americans believe that U.S. foreign policy should focus on protecting the country from terrorism and safeguarding American workers’ jobs, but they are divided along party lines on the finer points of foreign policy, the Pew Research Center reported Thursday.

Seventy-two percent of those surveyed on 26 foreign policy issues say protecting the U.S. from terrorism should be a top foreign policy priority, including 61 percent of Democrats and 84 percent of Republicans, according to a Pew survey conducted earlier this month among more than 10,600 American adults.

Seventy-one percent of the public believes that protecting American workers’ jobs should be a top priority, including 81 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of Democrats.

But when the survey ventured into the specifics of foreign policy priorities, it found that Republicans and Democrats have very different ideas.

Seventy percent of Democrats are most concerned about improving relationships with American allies, while only 44 percent of Republicans said this should be a foreign policy priority.

The partisan gap on this issue was almost nonexistent during Barack Obama’s first term in 2011, when 48 percent of Democrats said improving relationships with allies should be a priority and 47 percent of Republicans said the same.

Republicans are also much more concerned than Democrats with maintaining a U.S. military advantage and reducing immigration into the U.S., the survey found.

Seventy percent of Republicans say maintaining a U.S. military advantage should be prioritized, while about half as many Democrats (34 percent) say the same. With a similar partisan gap, 68 percent of Republicans say reducing illegal immigration into the U.S. should be a priority, while only 20 percent of Democrats agree.

Democrats are much more concerned than Republicans about climate change. Sixty-four percent of Democrats say this should be a U.S. foreign policy priority, while only 22 percent of Republicans say the same.

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say U.S. foreign policy should prioritize human rights issues – although, overall, fewer than 31 percent of Americans prioritize issues such as promoting and defending human rights in other countries, aiding refugees fleeing violence around the world, and improving living standards in developing nations.

The survey also revealed a significant age gap on many of the 26 foreign policy issues addressed, finding that Americans under the age of 30 are more likely to prioritize human rights issues than Americans over the age of 65.

Forty-nine percent of young Americans say that the U.S. should prioritize protecting groups or nations threatened with genocide, while 36 percent of older adults say the same.

Older Americans (64 percent) are more than twice as likely as younger Americans (30 percent) to say that the U.S. should make maintaining its military advantage a top priority.

Younger Americans are also less likely than older Americans to prioritize limiting the power and influence of foreign powers. Fewer than 30 percent of young people feel that the U.S. should prioritize limiting the power and influence of Russia, Iran, North Korea and China. In comparison, 54 percent of older Americans feel that the U.S. should prioritize limiting Russia’s power.

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