A new survey from Morning Consult finds Donald Trump edging Hillary Clinton on the vital issue of keeping the country safe. The poll, of more than 2,000 registered voters interviewed after the terrorist attack in Orlando, finds 41 percent of voters think Trump will do a better job keeping the country safe. Just 37 percent of voters think Clinton will better handle the nation’s security. A fifth of voters are undecided.
Hillary Clinton served as Barack Obama’s Secretary of State for four years and has made that experience a central argument of her candidacy. Her campaign has argued that Clinton has a more commanding grasp of foreign affairs and has the temperament to navigate the country through a period of world uncertainty. Clinton may have a better understanding of the street map of Brussels, but on this issue of keeping the country, and voters, safe, Trump has a clear edge.
Unsurprisingly, both candidates do well within their own party ranks. Among Republicans, 80 percent think Trump will keep America safer, while 78 percent of Democrats feel the same about Clinton. With Independent voters, though, Trump has a sizable advantage on the security question.
By a 12-point margin, Independents think Trump will do a better job than Clinton keeping the U.S. safe. Almost 4-in-10 (38 percent) Independents pick Trump, while just 26 percent think Clinton would be better.
Men also back Trump by a 12 point margin, 47-35. Interestingly, Clinton’s advantage among women on the security issue is just two points. Thirty-Eight percent of women think Clinton will keep the country safer, while 36 percent of women think Trump will.
Trump’s edge among all voters is itself noteworthy. For those who consider national security their top issue, though, his advantage is overwhelming. Among those voters who list security as their top concern this election, 57 percent think Trump will do a better job than Clinton keeping the U.S. safe. Only 25 percent of these voters prefer Clinton.
Unfortunately for Clinton, the number of voters who list security as their top concern rose dramatically in the wake of the Orlando terrorist attack. A Morning Consult survey released Monday found that “Security” is now tied with the economy as voters’ top concern. The economy is the top issue for 30 percent of voters, while security is the top issue for 29 percent of voters.
The return of security as a top issue in Monday’s Morning Consult poll had a measurable impact on the poll’s other findings. In a head-to-head match-up, Clinton and Trump were essentially tied, 42-40. When third party candidates were included, Clinton and Trump each had 38 percent support.
A Morning Consult survey before the Orlando attacks found Clinton leading Trump by six points, 39-33, when third party candidates were included. Head-to-head, Clinton lead Trump by five points.
It is still June, of course. Past polling has shown that voters’ concerns about security fade in the weeks following an attack. Politically, the Orlando terrorist attack had the effect of blunting the bump Clinton was receiving after wrapping up her nomination fight. Trump has regained ground he was losing as voters became more concerned about national security.
That, in itself, is a damaging piece of data confronting the Clinton campaign. Despite her long resumé in foreign policy, voters do not trust her when security is at the forefront of their minds. Of course, Americans may not trust her because of that foreign policy experience she gained as part of the Obama Administration.
On few issues is Clinton as intertwined with Obama as foreign policy. Given the rapid accumulation of crises around the world and the unfortunate certainty that terrorists will likely strike the U.S. again before November, Clinton’s current edge in the polls is rather tenuous.
As Harold MacMillan allegedly said, “events” have a way of upsetting even the best laid campaign plans.