Chris Christie's Foreign Policy Lesson

September 08, 2014, 10:24 AM GMT+0

Half of Republican voters may like Chris Christie but his favorability is lower than other likely GOP candidates for 2016

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has embarked on a course of study of foreign policy issues – beginning with a trade trip to Mexico last week. This may be necessary if the Republican wants to run for President in 2016. Whatever positions he takes will have to attract GOP voters who are generally more hawkish than the typical voter. At the same time he must try to improve opinions about himself among the same group.

In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, half of Republicans have a favorable view of Christie, but that percentage is far lower than the positive ratings they give to most other GOP possibilities. And the third of Republicans who view Christie negatively is higher than the negative rating given to other candidates.

Christie’s cross-party appeal, which was supposed to be a strength in the past, is now minimal. Democrats and independents are more likely to have negative than positive views of Christie. Just 20% of Democrats and 35% of independents are favorable towards him.

So what foreign policy positions would Christie need to take to attract Republicans?

First of all, support air strikes and drone strikes against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria. A majority of Republicans support those acts.

On Ukraine, GOP opinion is less clear in this week’s poll. Republicans are not thrilled by the prospect of negotiating with Russia over Ukraine. More would favor sending weapons to Ukraine. But most Republicans are not in favor of either action, with the exception of greater economic sanctions. About half favor that. However, hardly any Republicans think sanctions would have an impact.

In last week’s Economist/YouGov Poll, Republicans were much more worried than Democrats or independents about possible threats to the United States: 73% of Republicans viewed ISIS as an immediate and serious threat, and nearly half said that about al Qaeda and Iran. Republicans overwhelmingly viewed ISIS as a threat that the United States needs to solve, not something to leave to the Iraqis.

Republicans have continued to support the decision to send troops to Iraq, even though more than half of the public overall views the 2003 invasion as a mistake.

Republicans favor more international engagement – even more military engagement. In a mid-August Economist/YouGov Poll, 51% of Republicans agreed that the next President should be more willing than President Obama has been to use the American military in conflicts around the world. Just 12% of Democrats and 30% of independents agree.

But perhaps one of the most clear foreign policy positions Republicans take is overwhelming support for Israel. 60% of Republicans said in early August that their sympathies lie with Israel in the current Israel-Palestinian dispute; just 3% side with the Palestinians.

Christie does have a head start on these questions as many GOP views are in line with the generally hawkish tone expressed in a speech the Governor made in May.

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.

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