According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Republicans have soared to a monumental lead among Americans in the decision of which party they can trust to maintain a strong national defense.
A majority of respondents, 54%, chose the GOP, while only 16% preferred Democrats, a lead for the GOP that hasn’t been matched in more than ten years. That statistic dovetails perfectly with another: the GOP leads 41% to 23% for the Democrats when voters were asked which party dealt best with foreign policy. That difference is more pronounced than last year, when the GOP led 33% to 26%. The move toward the GOP coincides with the lowest number recorded to date for voters approving of President Barack Obama’s handling of foreign policy: 32%.
Americans are moving strongly toward the GOP for security, and it seems that this is because they are more afraid; the percentage of Americans feeling unsafe, 47%, is the highest it has been since 9/11. That figure is an astonishing increase of 27% from the 20% in September 2002. The level of fear has skyrocketed from a year ago, when it was 28% of respondents who felt unsafe. Only 26% of voters feel that the country is safer than it was before the 9/11 attacks.
The Islamic State (IS), also known as ISIS, may be the trigger for Americans’ fear; GOP pollster Bill McInturff, who joined Democratic pollster Peter Hart and Hart Research to conduct the poll, said, “A very war-weary country … seems to have woken up to the real threat that ISIS may present. The beheadings are so chilling to the American public. The only things I think of equal impact are the self-immolations back in Vietnam.”
The percentage of voters who think military action against ISIS is good for the U.S. is 61%, while 13% oppose it. The percentage of voters who said action against ISIS should only include air strikes is 40%, while 34% prefer air strikes and combat troops.
But one revealing statistic tells how central the fear of ISIS is: a staggering 94% of voters knew of the journalists beheaded by ISIS, the highest percentage any event has registered in the poll in the last five years.
The percentage of voters who think the U.S. should be less involved in world affairs has declined from 47% in April to 40% now, and 27% of voters want the U.S. to be more active; in April, that figure was 19%.
Two-thirds of voters–more than the 2006 and 2010 midterm elections–think the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction; Obama’s overall approval rating ties his all-time low at 40% percent, and more voters think the GOP should control Congress, 45%, compared to 43% for Democrats, a differential that grows to 50% to 40% in states where the most competitive races are being held for the Senate.
Democratic pollster Fred Yang of Hart Research concluded, “With 56 days until Election Day, our poll provides greater insight into what is likely to happen, and the news is not good for the Democrats.”