President Donald Trump has been critical of the North American Treaty Organization since before he took office in January 2017. Trump called NATO “obsolete” on the campaign trail, and criticized its members for not meeting defense spending targets.
A YouGov poll conducted in January 2017 found many Republicans agreeing with him, with about two in five (39%) said they supported US membership in the alliance. Now, nearly half of Republicans (48%) support NATO membership – but their responses in a new YouGov Poll are still less positive than those of Democrats.
Today, few people doubt that NATO has an important role to play in the defense of Western countries. Four times as many Americans believe this as think it doesn’t have a role to play. Three years ago, 29 percent of Republicans were dubious about NATO’s role in Western defenses; that percentage has dropped to 19 percent today. But as many Republicans say they aren’t sure about NATO’s role as believe it has an important role in Western defenses. Democrats are convinced now, as they were then, that NATO has an important role in defense: two-thirds say it does, and only 5 percent disagree.
One GOP opinion has moved in the other direction. Three years ago, Republicans saw the United States as having a responsibility to protect Europe. Now they are not so sure.
One reason Republicans may think US military assistance to Europe is less necessary today may be that they believe Europe is in a better position to defend itself today. At the start of the Trump administration, Republicans were divided on whether NATO or Russia would win if there were a war between the two. More than a third (35%) said NATO would win, while 25 percent chose Russia. Now, by 60 percent to 10 percent, Republicans believe NATO would defeat Russia.
HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.