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Americans Don't Really Trust Any Of The Candidates In An International Crisis

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 25/03/2016 Ariel Edwards-Levy
ATHENA IMAGE © Carlo Allegri / Reuters ATHENA IMAGE

Americans are worried about the state of the world and uneasy about the presidential candidates' ability to handle international crises, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted in the aftermath of Tuesday's terror attacks in Brussels.

Sixty-nine percent say they're at least somewhat scared about the way things are going in the world today. There's little consensus, though about what the U.S. should do in response.

Almost as many said the best way to ensure peace was through military strength (39 percent) as said it was good diplomacy (43 percent). Thirty-one percent think the U.S. does too much to help solve world problems, while 26 percent think it does too little. Thirty-one percent think the country uses military force too often, while 24 percent think it does so too rarely.

Republicans are more than three times likelier than Democrats to value military strength over diplomatic strength, and nearly four times as likely to say the U.S. military isn't strong enough. They're also substantially more likely to oppose an isolationist foreign policy. On most measures, independents fall solidly in the middle. 

Donald Trump's nativist sentiments appear to best position him to capitalize on those renewed fears in the Republican primary. By a narrow margin, the Republicans surveyed see him as the best primary candidate to deal with an international crisis. Thirty-seven percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they trust him most, with 33 percent naming Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and just 16 percent preferring Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Republicans who place the most faith in Trump differ notably in a few ways from those who don't. They're 13 points likelier to say they're "very scared" about the world. They're also 25 points likelier to say that the next president should speak bluntly about Islamic extremism, even if it means criticizing Islam as a whole, and 27 points likelier to say it's a problem that politicians aren't critical enough toward Islam.

It's less clear how well Trump's appeal will translate outside of the GOP, where anti-Islam sentiment is less widespread. A 55 percent majority of independents and Democrats, compared to just a quarter of Republicans, say the next president should be careful not to criticize Islam as a whole when speaking about Islamic extremists.

When polled about individual candidates, 62 percent of Americans as a whole said they're uneasy about Trump's ability to deal wisely with an international crisis. In contrast, 51 percent are uneasy about Hillary Clinton, 50 about Cruz and 40 percent about Kasich. While Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was not included in this poll, exit polling to date shows that Democrats trust Clinton considerably more than Sanders to handle an international crisis.

But there's not solid evidence that yearning for a sober-minded commander in chief will move voters away from Trump, either.  In the survey, Trump's argument -- that he'd bring strength and leadership to the Oval Office -- resonated in theory as much as Clinton's appeals to her years as Secretary of State.

In a direct comparison of Clinton and Trump's merits, Clinton wins solidly, but not overwhelmingly. Forty-six percent of Americans say they trust her more to deal with an international crisis, while 34 percent trust Trump more, with the rest unsure. Independents are about evenly split between the two candidates.

Candidates' foreign policy credentials may not even matter that much to voters during the general election, by which time  many Americans expect that issues at home will regain center stage. 

While Republicans say by a 7-point margin that foreign policy will play a bigger role in 2016 than domestic policy, Democrats and independents predict by a 9-point margin that domestic policy will be more important.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted March 22-25 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found  here . More details on the polls’ methodology are available here .

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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