Pew Survey: GOP Becoming Less Libertarian on Foreign Policy

Pew Survey: GOP Becoming Less Libertarian on Foreign Policy

Republicans may be moving away from a more libertarian foreign policy approach after the Islamic State’s public beheadings of two American journalists.

A recent Pew Research poll led the Los Angeles Times to note that the GOP’s “libertarian tide on foreign policy, which waxed strongly over the last four years, has begun to recede in the face of growing public fears about Islamic militancy in the Mideast.”

According to the Pew survey, “fewer conservatives are worried that government anti-terrorism activities will lead to violations of civil liberties” after “concern over the tradeoff between civil liberties and security had risen sharply after Edward Snowden’s” revelations about the various National Security Agency spying programs.

The Pew poll found that “47% of Americans said they were more concerned that government anti-terrorism policies had gone ‘too far in restricting the average person’s civil liberties’ a year ago. Only 35% now believe “government anti-terrorism policies” have gone “too far.” In addition, “50% say their greater worry is that the policies will not go ‘far enough.'” 

Republicans, especially those associated with the Tea Party, have shifted the most. In November, 43% of Republicans felt the government’s anti-terrorism policies had gone “too far,” and 41% felt they had not gone “far enough.” As the Times noted, 24% now believe the anti-terrorism policies have gone “too far” while 64% believe they have gone “not far enough.” 

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who still has wide appeal among libertarians because of his embrace of privacy and opposition to the government’s spying of emails and cell phone records, is trying to strike a balance on foreign policy. He recently declared that he was not an isolationist in a recent Time op-ed. Paul also declared that he supports air strikes to decimate ISIS but did not believe in arming Syrian rebels whose allegiances are still nebulous. 

The Pew survey was conducted September 2-9 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points.


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