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A majority of Americans disapprove of Trump’s foreign policy

The president still gets decent marks from Republicans — but overall support for his handling of international affairs is low.

President Donald Trump walks toward a podium and microphone at a NATO summit.
President Donald Trump at a NATO summit in July 2018.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Jen Kirby is a senior foreign and national security reporter at Vox, where she covers global instability.

Americans are worried about their country’s standing in the world under President Donald Trump.

According to a new poll from the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago, 53 percent of Americans believe the US’s position in the world will get somewhat or much worse in 2019 — and just 21 percent think it will improve.

A majority of American also have qualms with Trump’s foreign policy. This same poll, which was conducted January 16-20 of this year among 1,062 respondents, found that 63 percent of Americans disapprove of the president’s handling of international affairs, while 35 percent approve.

The breakdown splits along party lines: 76 percent of Republicans approve of Trump’s handling of foreign policy, while only 8 percent of Democrats do. (A whopping 89 percent of Democrats disapprove.)

This divisiveness around Trump’s foreign policy comes two years into his administration, and may reflect the president’s mixed results on the international stage. Trump has repeatedly lambasted America’s allies and has undermined long-standing alliances such as NATO through his aggressive rhetoric and tearing up of international treaties, such as the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal. This has been a boon to America’s competitors, such as Russia and China.

Trump has been tough on China, specifically when it comes to trade, but it’s still unclear whether this strategy will end up achieving what the president wants. Trump’s recent rapprochement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un helped walk Washington and Pyongyang back from the brink of war, but the administration has overplayed its success in getting North Korea to commit to denuclearization.

The president has overseen ISIS’s loss of territory in Syria, and his administration might be on the verge of agreeing to a peace framework in Afghanistan, ending America’s longest-running war. At the same time, his abrupt announcement that he intended to pull troops out of Syria in December without notifying partners strained alliances once again.

Perhaps given this record, there’s less optimism overall for what Trump can accomplish when it comes to foreign policy. While Republicans are much more bullish about Trump’s international approach, the survey found that only 22 percent of respondents believed America’s relations with foes, such as Russia and North Korea, would improve in 2019. Compare that to a similar survey, conducted in June 2018, in which 40 percent of Americans believed relations could get better.

There’s also a partisan split — though slightly less dramatic — when it comes to Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Syria. A total of 41 percent of Americans approve of pulling out of Afghanistan — with 56 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of Democrats approving. When it comes to Syria, 39 percent of Americans approve, including 56 percent of Republicans and 26 percent of Democrats who support the decision. Compare that to 21 percent of Republicans and 48 percent of Democrats who disapprove of Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria.

The poll is revealing in what it tells us about how Trump’s brash and often unorthodox approach has reshaped partisan opinions, especially within the traditionally hawkish Republican Party.

These divisions also exist when it comes to Americans’ biggest foreign policy concerns. Sixty-eight percent of Republicans said illegal immigration was among the biggest direct threats to the United States. But a majority of Democrats — 78 percent — saw climate change a direct danger to the US, while another 65 percent of Democrats said Russia’s influence worldwide threatened America. Only 29 percent of Republicans agreed about the dangers of the Kremlin’s antics.