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Updated on Oct 26, 2023
Updates quarterly

U.S. Foreign Policy Tracker

Measuring Americans' views on isolationism, multilateralism and the country's most pressing foreign policy challenges

Morning Consult’s U.S. Foreign Policy Tracker follows Americans’ views of U.S. foreign policy, including which issues they find most important, whether public opinion skews toward isolationism or engagement, and whether voters favor multilateral solutions to global economic and military challenges or prefer to go it alone. The tracker pairs Morning Consult’s crosscutting U.S. Foreign Policy Sentiment Indexes — which measure voters’ attitudes toward isolationism and multilateralism — with topical data on Democrats’ and Republicans’ evolving views on U.S.-China and U.S.-E.U. relations, foreign trade and investment, and more to provide holistic, high-frequency insights into Americans’ foreign policy preferences. A methodological companion memo can be found here.

Key Takeaways

  • Terrorism remains a top foreign policy priority for U.S. voters. The issue is the second most cited among the electorate, though Republicans are nearly twice as likely to rank it as a top five issue compared with Democrats.

  • The latest Israel-Hamas war is the sixth-most selected top five priority for U.S. voters. At 31%, Republicans are the most likely to rank it as a top five concern, while 29% of Democrats agree.

  • Republican voters’ support for isolationism reaches an all-time high. A record 51% of Republican voters favor greater isolationism in U.S. foreign policy, up 6 percentage points since August. GOP voters’ increasing desire for an isolationist foreign policy comes as a growing number of Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill have raised objections to sending more aid to Ukraine and amid the onset of the conflict in Israel.

  • Voters are warming to the idea of the United States resolving disputes in coordination with its allies rather than going it alone. The shares of voters who favor such coordination to resolve military and economic disputes are near all-time highs. This  cooperation is favored by pluralities of Democrats and Republicans, and bodes well for coordinating a multilateral response to the Israel-Hamas conflict. See here for our latest analysis of U.S. voters’ views on the conflict.

  • As the United States struggles with a surge in unauthorized border crossings, U.S. voters’ concerns about immigration are rising. Voters are most likely to rank immigration as their top foreign policy priority, up from third place in July. The uptick is being fueled by voters of both parties, with the shares of Democrats and Republicans who prioritize immigration increasing 10 points and 11 points, respectively, between July and October.

Top Issues

Americans’ Top Foreign Policy Issues

Shares of registered voters citing each of the following as among the top five most important foreign policy issues facing the United States:
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“Immigration” and “drug trafficking” items refer to flows into the United States. “Disinformation” refers specifically to efforts by foreign governments to influence U.S. politics. “Terrorism” and “cyberattacks” refer specifically to actions targeting the United States.

Americans’ Top Foreign Policy Issues: Side-by-Side Comparisons

Shares of registered voters citing each of the following as among the top five most important foreign policy issues facing the United States:
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“Immigration” and “drug trafficking” items refer to flows into the United States. “Disinformation” refers specifically to efforts by foreign governments to influence U.S. politics. “Terrorism” and “cyberattacks” refer specifically to actions targeting the United States.

Isolationism and Engagement

Indexes of U.S. Isolationism and Engagement

Indexes report the average shares of voters who favor greater isolationism, stability or engagement in U.S. foreign policy across three thematic issue areas
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The thematic issue areas, each composed of two data series, include (1) soft power and foreign aid, covering attitudes toward involvement in other countries’ affairs and foreign aid provision; (2) overseas military engagement, covering support for U.S. troop deployments and involvement in military conflicts; and (3) trade and investment policies, covering preferences toward tariffs on foreign goods and barriers to inward foreign investment. Each index is computed as a simple average of shares corresponding to response levels (isolationism, stability and engagement) across all six component data series. “Don’t know/No opinion” responses do not factor into the index calculations and are not shown here.

Isolationism and Engagement: Thematic Issue Areas

The thematic issue areas that comprise the Indexes of U.S. Isolationism and Engagement are Involvement in Other Countries' Affairs, Overseas Troop Deployments and Trade and Tariffs.

Involvement in Other Countries’ Affairs

Shares of voters who think the United States should increase its involvement in the affairs of other countries
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Response categories — increase, neither increase nor decrease, and decrease — respectively connote engagement, stability and isolationism in the corresponding Morning Consult indexes. “Don’t know/No opinion” responses do not factor into the index calculations and are not shown here.

Overseas Troop Deployments

Shares of voters who think the U.S. government should increase the deployment of troops overseas
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Response categories — increase, neither increase nor decrease, and decrease — respectively correspond to engagement, stability and isolationism in the corresponding Morning Consult indexes. “Don’t know/No opinion” responses do not factor into the index calculations and are not shown here.

Trade and Tariffs

Shares of voters who think the United States should increase tariffs on foreign-made goods
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Response categories — increase, neither increase nor decrease, and decrease — respectively correspond to isolationism, stability and engagement in the corresponding Morning Consult indexes. “Don’t know/No opinion” responses do not factor into the index calculations and are not shown here.

Indexes of U.S. Multilateralism and Unilateralism

Indexes report the average shares of voters who favor greater multilateralism, stability or unilateralism in U.S. foreign policy across three thematic issue areas
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The thematic issue areas, each composed of a single data series, address three distinct aspects of U.S. foreign policy, including (1) policy coordination via diplomatic forums, covering attitudes toward U.S. involvement in international organizations; (2) military policy coordination, covering attitudes toward addressing global military disputes in coordination with U.S. partners and allies as opposed to going it alone; and (3) economic policy coordination, covering the same attitudes in the context of global economic disputes. Each index is computed as a simple average of shares corresponding to response levels (multilateralism, stability and unilateralism) across all three component data series. “Don’t know/No opinion” responses do not factor into the index calculations and are not shown here.

Multilateralism and Unilateralism: Thematic Issue Areas

The thematic issue areas that comprise the Indexes of U.S. Multilateralism and Unilateralism are Involvement in International Organizations, Resolution of Military Disputes and Resolution of Economic Disputes.

Involvement in International Organizations

Shares of voters who think the United States should increase its involvement in international organizations like the United Nations
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Response categories — increase, neither increase nor decrease, and decrease — respectively connote multilateralism, stability and unilateralism in the corresponding Morning Consult indexes. “Don’t know/No opinion” responses do not factor into the index calculations and are not shown here.

Resolution of Military Disputes

Shares of voters who think the United States should increase its efforts to resolve military disputes involving itself and other countries by coordinating a response with its allies instead of going it alone
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Response categories — increase, neither increase nor decrease, and decrease — respectively correspond to multilateralism, stability, and unilateralism in the corresponding Morning Consult indices.

Resolution of Economic Disputes

Shares of voters who think the United States should increase its efforts to address economic disputes involving itself and other countries by coordinating a response with its allies instead of going it alone
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Response categories — increase, neither increase nor decrease, and decrease — respectively connote multilateralism, stability and unilateralism in the corresponding Morning Consult indexes. “Don’t know/No opinion” responses do not factor into the index calculations and are not shown here.

Source of This Data

Methodology

The U.S. Foreign Policy Tracker relies on data collected through Morning Consult’s proprietary survey research capabilities. Interviews are conducted online.

All data featured in the tracker derives from surveys conducted among representative samples of roughly 2,000 registered voters each, with unweighted margins of error of +/-2 percentage points. Data are weighted to approximate representative samples of U.S. voters. Morning Consult updated its weights for U.S. adults on Jan. 1, 2023.

Dates indicated in all charts correspond to the last day of survey fielding for each wave. Surveys were conducted weekly through Nov. 6, 2022, and monthly thereafter.

About Morning Consult

Morning Consult is a global decision intelligence company changing how modern leaders make smarter, faster, better decisions. The company pairs its proprietary high-frequency data with applied artificial intelligence to better inform decisions on what people think and how they will act. Learn more at morningconsult.com.

Email [email protected] to speak with a member of the Morning Consult team.

Jason McMann
Head of Political Intelligence

Jason I. McMann leads geopolitical risk analysis at Morning Consult. He leverages the company’s high-frequency survey data to advise clients on how to integrate geopolitical risk into their decision-making. Jason previously served as head of analytics at GeoQuant (now part of Fitch Solutions). He holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University’s Politics Department. Follow him on Twitter @jimcmann. Interested in connecting with Jason to discuss his analysis or for a media engagement or speaking opportunity? Email [email protected].

Jon Reid
Research Editor

Jon Reid previously worked at Morning Consult as a research editor for domestic and world politics.