Is Jeb Bush a hawk or a dove? Most Americans aren't sure

William JordanUS Elections Editor
February 26, 2015, 4:25 PM UTC

Americans overwhelmingly see George W. Bush as a hawk. They are mostly undecided about his younger brother.

“I am my own man”, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told audiences at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs last week. The Republican, who is almost certain seek the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, used the address to sketch out his foreign policy and confront those who argue a third Bush presidency would adopt the same hawkish and neoconservative posture taken by Jeb’s older brother, George W. Bush, during his presidency.

To see whether the elder Bush’s hawkish reputation had rubbed off on Jeb, YouGov repeated a question used before to compare the perceived hawkishness of other likely 2016 contenders and presidents through history.

The findings suggest most people are prepared to see Jeb as his own man on foreign policy: 64% say they arent sure if he is a hawk or a dove, and only 25% think he is a hawk. That’s more than double the number who say he is a dove (11%), but it’s substantially lower than the 56% who say George W. Bush is a hawk.

In fact, more Americans (33%) were prepared in a September 2014 poll to say Hillary Clinton, the favorite for the 2016 Democratic nomination, is a hawk than they are with Bush now. Rand Paul, who has urged for restraint in U.S. foreign policy, is seen as a hawk by equal numbers to Bush.

Clinton and Paul are also seen as dovish by greater numbers than Bush – their foreign policy views are more familiar to people overall (when it comes to general favorability, more Americans have an opinion of Bush than Paul). But even if the tilt of opinion on Bush suggests a greater readiness to see him as a hawk than a dove, it also shows people have not yet made up their minds in large numbers.

On Jeb Bush, there is relatively little disagreement between self-identified Democrats and Republicans. By 26 to 14 Republicans say Bush is more of a hawk than a dove, versus 30 to 9 among Democrats. In comparison, Democrats say Hillary Clinton is a hawk by 43 to 22 while Republicans say she is a dove by 48 to 25.  

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Full poll results can be found here and topline results and margin of error here