Foreign policy concerns may affect US presidential election

By Polityk | 06/06/2024 | Повідомлення, Політика

New Orleans, Louisiana — “It’s the economy, stupid,” is the oft-repeated reminder from the 1992 U.S. presidential election, attributed to political consultant James Carville explaining voter motivations.

Economic concerns remain central to voters in this November’s anticipated rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, but wars in Gaza and Ukraine may influence enough voters in swing states to make foreign policy matter on Election Day.

“This is projected to be a very close election decided by an extremely small margin,” said Robert Collins, professor of Urban Studies and Public Policy at Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana. “In close elections, the people on those margins can determine who becomes president.”

Massachusetts music teacher Lauri Sklar told VOA that this election feels different from others, in part because the war in Gaza is such “a watershed moment” for young Democrats.

“Whether they choose to support a third-party candidate or they refuse to vote entirely, I think there are a lot of young liberal voters who are not going to vote for Biden come November, and I’m worried that might mean Trump wins,” Sklar says.

Young Americans focused on Gaza

A survey earlier this year by Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government found that 18-to-29-year-old Americans overwhelmingly support a permanent cease-fire in Gaza.

Brooklyn Birdie, a graduate student from Shreveport, Louisiana says she supported Biden in 2020 but will not in 2024.

“There is no way ‘Genocide Joe’ will receive a vote from me this fall,” Birdie told VOA. “He is complicit with an ongoing ethnic cleansing.”

That does not mean she will vote for Trump instead.

“I think, as a businessman, Trump’s presidency was good for the economy,” she explained, “but I can’t support someone with such unwavering support and allegiance toward Israel. I’m considering voting for a third party, but I’m not sure yet.”

American priorities

America’s role abroad matters to New York teacher Paige Benson, but it will not decide her vote.

“I value foreign policy, and I think our relationship with other countries is really important,” she told VOA. “But that being said, we have so much work to do with our own country.”

“When it comes down to who I will vote for, it’s going to be who I trust with the economy,” she added. “It seems like everyone’s struggling right now. I know people making six-figure salaries who are struggling. Imagine how the rest of us are doing.”

Florida retiree Harvey Wasserman says he will be voting on immigration.

“Foreign policy is important, but I wish we would stop being the world’s judge and jury,” he said. “To me, let’s focus on home. I want to see secured borders and clear citizenship requirements. I think Trump is more likely to give us that.”

Decided on the margins

Connecticut voter Rebecca Urrutia says because “the way we handle tensions with other countries will have a big impact for me,” she is voting for Trump.

“I don’t like Trump’s style of communicating at all, but he’s much stronger on foreign policy,” she added. “He’s direct and follows through on what he promises. The Biden administration, on the other hand, are so wishy-washy with their positions. There’s too much at stake to be indecisive.”

Foreign policy is also a top priority for Louisiana voter Debbie Pesses, but she is voting for Biden.

“If Putin gets hold of Ukraine, none of Europe is safe,” she said. “And as much as I feel for the people of Gaza, we can’t allow Hamas to threaten the only true democracy in the Middle East.”

“We need someone calm in the White House,” Pesses continued, “and even though I worry about Biden’s age, his temperament is much better for the job than Trump.”

2024 election impact

In an election that could be decided by a handful of swing states, Dillard University professor Collins says a motivating foreign policy concern such as the war in Gaza could make the difference. In Georgia, for example, Biden carried the state four years ago by fewer than 12,000 votes.

“There are more than 11,000 Muslim-Americans in Atlanta, alone,” Collins said. “That could determine the next president, and it doesn’t even account for the non-Muslim college students who are extremely dissatisfied with how Biden has handled the conflict in Israel.”

“In the end, I think Muslim-Americans will conclude that Biden is the lesser of two evils compared to Trump’s Middle East policy,” he continued, “but I think a sizable number of younger Democratic voters might be so disenchanted they’ll choose not to vote. The question is will enough of them sit out to swing an election?”