Striking a Better Course on U.S. Foreign Policy: An Alternative to Conservative Nationalism

A strong majority of Americans prefer investing more at home and working with allies overseas to the posture of belligerent nationalism and trade wars offered by conservative nationalists. This broad consensus in favor of progressive internationalism rooted at home sees a connection between America’s domestic strength and its ability to successfully compete with rivals abroad—and they believe the United States needs allies to do so effectively. While the core base for nationalist conservative foreign policy strongly backs building barriers between the United States and the rest of world, two-thirds of Americans, or 67 percent, believe the United States will be more competitive against rivals such as China if it works with allies in Europe and Asia while it invests in infrastructure, research and development, and education here at home.

Terrorism remains the dominant foreign policy concern of a majority of Americans, with more than half, or 54 percent, saying it’s one of the top issues deciding their vote for president in 2020. Strong partisan and generational differences emerge on climate change and immigration as well. More than two-thirds, or 68 percent, of Americans—including 50 percent of Republicans—favor greater investment in clean energy sources over further exploitation of fossil fuels, with 7 in 10 Millennials and Generation Z voters, or 71 percent, saying climate will be a top or very important issue deciding their 2020 vote. Likewise, two-thirds, or 64 percent, of Americans favor comprehensive immigration reform over building a border wall—but 6 in 10 Republicans, or 61 percent, support the wall.

These poll results show conservatives increasingly out of step with the American people on key security issues.

Brian Katulis is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Peter Juul is a senior policy analyst at the Center. John Halpin is a senior fellow at the Center.