Home/Daniel Larison/Recent Pew Poll Shows Series of Setbacks for Neocons

Recent Pew Poll Shows Series of Setbacks for Neocons

The poll continues to show the long-standing divide between elite and general public opinion over trade and the international economy. Among the general public, 84 per cent said protecting American jobs should be a foreign policy priority, but most elite groups did not mention the issue.

On other issues, most elite groups said that visa restrictions on foreign students adopted after September 11 had gone too far, but the general public strongly disagreed, with 71 per cent saying such restrictions are needed to prevent terrorists from entering the US.

The poll also underscored the continued strength of US-European relations, with 84 per cent saying the US partnership with Europe remained important.

While the US has not suffered another terrorist attack on its soil since September 11, most Americans believe the capacity of terrorists to mount such an attack is undiminished. When asked why America had not been attacked again, nearly half said it was merely luck. ~MSNBC (originally from The Financial Times)

This latest Pew poll, aside from the much-touted result of “growing isolationism” in America (42% think we should mind our own business, as opposed to 30% three years ago, which is good news and it is not “isolationist” but simply sane), represents the popular repudiation of a number of neocon positions. Neocon Europhobia may keep their own pundits amused, but the deterioration of relations with Europe is evidently not a welcome development in the popular view. It might be a function of people watching too much 24, but the popular view is that the much-vaunted War on Terror has not really been very successful with respect to diminishing the capacity of terrorist groups. Little wonder, since the bulk of what now passes for that war takes place in Iraq and now functions as the jihadi factory that the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan did 20 years ago. Even domestic security is not credited to the administration, since I suspect most of the people are well aware of the pitiful state of our border security.

In a clear rebuke to the Wall Street Journal/Weekly Standard embrace of “free trade,” an overwhelming 84% saw job protection (which implies protection of some kind for domestic industry and business) as a priority. As the poll shows, the neocons are not alone among elites in not even conceiving of this as a problem, but it is the neocons who most full-throatedly endorse the trade and economic policies that 84% of the people seem to find seriously lacking.

As on immigration (51% in the Pew poll regarded illegal immigration as a foreign policy priority, which may suggest even deeper levels of anxiety about illegal immigration), the elites are fantastically out of touch with most of the country on trade. On those two issues there is the possible making of an America First movement. The 42% who believe we should mind our own business (matching the levels found in 1976 and 1995) possibly represent an untapped potential of core America First supporters on foreign policy. In very good news, the Pew poll could find no more than a third of any group of “influentials” or in the general public that believed promoting democracy was an important long-term goal of this country. That particular folly lacks the national consensus to become an enduring, popular policy, and once Iraq finally ends it will likely weaken more in popular support. These should be encouraging results for traditional and paleoconservatives, as they mark some small, probably very temporary turning of popular sentiment away from the enthusiasms of the managerial class and towards a healthier, Middle American politics.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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