A new survey from the Republican polling firm OnMessage finds national security has surpassed the economy as the top issue for voters. “Fiscal responsibility” slightly edged out the economy as well.
The totals were 22% for national security, 14% for fiscal responsibility, and 13% for economic growth, with a 2.6% margin of error.
Defense One notes this result is not an outlier, as other surveys have seen national security surging in importance. For example, a January poll from the Pew Research Center had security against terrorism tied with economic growth. The OnMessage pollsters believe the surge in national security’s importance began with the rise of ISIS, gaining steam through the 2014 midterm elections, and is approaching a ten-year peak.
“Nonpartisan polls suggest that, as a political issue, foreign policy favors Republicans,” writes Defense One. “The public gives President Obama low marks on the issue, according to a number of surveys, and a February poll from Pew shows voters now trust Republicans more than Democrats to handle foreign policy.”
Pollster Wes Anderson contends this renewed concern with national security could help Republicans defeat Hillary Clinton’s gender politics: “If a bunch of those swing, often suburban, soft partisan or independent women are becoming more concerned about security issues, what does that do to her ability to drive the gender splits they enjoyed in 2012? So there’s the big question. As foreign affairs and security issues grow, does this put a real wrench in their ability to drive a gender gap?”
It is duly noted that national security concerns tend to be news-driven, and the news around the world is universally awful, with just about every bad event leading directly back to Obama foreign policy failures. The coming year of news could strengthen or weaken voter concerns about national security, depending on what happens. Security is usually a more volatile issue than economic anxiety, with the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath a (hopefully) rare exception.
Perhaps the best strategy for Republicans is to connect national security with economic policy and fiscal responsibility. There are many ways those issues can be linked, beginning with the obvious truth that a moribund, politicized economy burdened with an absurdly indebted government doesn’t have enough resources to spare for military power and counter-terrorism, especially the kind of overwhelming military power that brings international tranquility by intimidating malefactors. Also, a nation in sad shape at home doesn’t have as much moral authority or prestige when it speaks to international audiences, a running problem throughout the Obama years.
Let Republican candidates offer the public a smaller, more honest, more competent government focused more clearly on its duty of protecting America — from the streets of her cities, through the border, to the dark corners of the world where danger brews — and less interested in the social engineering ambitions of the corrupt Ruling Class. We are insecure today, in far too many ways.