Research conducted by us at Redfield & Wilton Strategies earlier in July in the United States indicated that a clear plurality (35%) of the US public believes that the United Kingdom is the United States’ most important ally. In our latest set of polling, conducted in the six swing states which will be crucial to the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election, we asked a range of questions focusing on how foreign policy may influence voting.
Across all six swing states, a plurality of respondents viewed the UK as the most important ally to the United States. This was followed by Canada.
We found that the large majority (60-67%) of respondents in all six swing states considered the UK as more of an ally than a threat to the US and its interests.
Across our two polls, our finding points to a clear affinity between both countries. The continued importance of the ‘special relationship’ in defining UK-USA foreign policy was confirmed in recent reports highlighting that the UK’s decision to ban Huawei from building the country’s 5G network resulted from Washington’s campaign against the Chinese telecom.
Interestingly, those who intend on voting for Biden in November are more likely by a 2-8% margin to consider the UK as an ally than those who intend on voting for Trump.
This pattern can be better discerned with respects to France. Whilst a majority (50-56%) of respondents across all six swing states consider France as more of an ally than a threat, those who intend on voting for Biden are more likely to view France as an ally than those who intend to vote for Trump by a 7-16% margin.
By contrast, French opinion on the US was not so favourable with almost a third (31%) of French voters saying that they would like their government to seek more distant relations with the US.” Only a quarter (25%) of French respondents wanted their government to seek closer relations with the USA, while 24% wanted to maintain the current level of relations.
When thinking about non-European countries, a large plurality of those living in Pennsylvania (44%), North Carolina (41%), Arizona (45%) and Florida (48%) consider Israel to be more of an ally to the United States and its interests. Sentiment towards Israel was comparatively less favourable in Michigan and Wisconsin where 39% and 34% viewed Israel as an ally.
A gap of almost ten-points separates likely Trump supporters from Biden voters when asked about Israel. Indeed, across all six states, those who intend on voting for Trump are significantly more likely to view Israel as more of an ally to the US than those who intend on voting for Biden. In Arizona, for instance, 62% of those who plan on voting for Trump consider Israel as more of an ally compared to only 43% of those who intend on voting for Biden.
The Trump administration has consistently highlighted its support for Israel and its current government. Back in January, Donald Trump announced a highly controversial Arab-Israeli peace plan for a two-state solution which would provide Israel with full control of Jerusalem.
Across all six states, a large majority (56%-64%) of respondents considered Russia as more of a threat to the US and its interests. Nevertheless, there is also a degree of partisan differentiation in respondents’ views on Russia. For example, in Wisconsin roughly three quarters (74%) of those who intend on voting for Biden view Russia as more of a threat compared to just 59% of those who intend on voting for Trump.
Allegations of pro-Trump Russian interference in US elections have permeated the last four years in Washington, placing Moscow at the heart of American politics. More recently, President Trump called for an expansion of the G7 membership to include Russia ahead of the summit in Washington after the summer.
Elsewhere, only between 23% and 28% of respondents in the swing states consider Brazil as more of an ally than a threat to the United States’ interests.
It has been reported that the US ambassador in Brasilia has asked officials in Brazil to help Trump get re-elected by lowering tariffs on ethanol. The move could notably help Trump win Iowa, where ethanol is an important agricultural export.
Some countries were perceived as more of a threat than as an ally, most notably Saudi Arabia where a clear plurality (between 40% and 43%) answered that they view Saudi Arabia as more of a threat to the United States and its interests.
However, the country which respondents largely perceived as more of a threat is China. As our analysis has indicated, US-China relations look likely to be a crucial factor in the 2020 Presidential Election. Between 59% (Michigan) and 71% (Pennsylvania) of respondents in the swing states consider China as more of a threat than an ally to the United States.
Although the majority of respondents across the political spectrum view China as a threat, those who intend on voting for Trump are particularly likely to consider China as a threat. In Arizona, for instance 83% of those who intend on voting for Trump view China as more of a threat compared to 63% of those intending to vote for Biden.
This variation lines up with research conducted by us in July which found that a majority (56%) of respondents across the country agree that the Chinese Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic indicates that Beijing presents a danger to the United States and to the world. The ongoing trade war between the two powers and President Trump’s repeated attempts to blame China for covering up the coronavirus outbreak may also play some role in this anti-China sentiment.