Christian Conservatives Describe Existing International Relations and Their Hopes for the Future of Those Relationships
On the precipice of Donald Trump’s inauguration Americans have varied expectations about what his presidency will be like. A new nationwide survey among Christian conservatives examined the state of relations with nine leading countries and expectations regarding how the incoming president will handle those relationships.
Perceptions of US Relations with Leading Nations
Existing Foreign Relations
The Obama Administration received mixed marks from the general public for its handling of foreign affairs during the past eight years. As the United States prepares for the transition from the Obama years to the Trump chapter, most Christian conservatives believe that America’s ties with nine leading nations of the world are in reasonably good shape.
Asked to estimate whether the United States has a generally positive or negative relationship with each of those countries, SAGE Cons – the spiritually active, governance engaged Christian conservatives – believe that we have overall favorable relations with six of those nations and generally negative ties with the other three.
By far the strongest relationships are believed to be those with England and Canada. Overall, 85% of SAGE Cons believe we have positive relationship with England and 80% say we have a positive bond with Canada.
A majority also believes we have a generally positive standing with Germany (60%) and France (55%). While half of the SAGE Cons contend that we have a relatively neutral relationship with two other nations, the other half of the Christian conservatives are more apt to say we have a positive than negative relationship with Brazil (32% positive, 17% negative) and India (33% positive, 19% negative).
Large majorities of SAGE Cons believe that the United States has an unfavorable relationship with China (81%) and Russia (78%). A plurality also indicated that our relations with Mexico are more likely negative than positive (47% versus 29%, respectively).
Predicting the Future
Asked to predict the condition of those relationships after four years of leadership from Donald Trump, SAGE Cons were generally upbeat about what lies ahead for America. A majority of the Christian conservatives interviewed expect relationships with seven of those nations to improve while they anticipate no change in one and a slight deterioration of another.
A comfortable majority of SAGE Cons expect the country’s relationships with Russia (61%) and England (59%) to get better. Despite recent controversies over the alleged involvement of Russia in the November election, only one out of ten SAGE Cons (11%) anticipate a turn for the worse in US-Soviet relations with Mr. Trump in office.
A plurality of Christian conservatives believes that while the coming four years will not bring substantial change in our relationship with five nations, the balance in the shift of those relationships will be more positive than negative. Those include our ties with Canada (44% expect things to get better, 4% expect the relationship to get worse); Germany (44% better, 5% worse); France (42% better, 4% worse); India (33% better, 6% worse); and Brazil (32% better, 5% worse).
One relationship that has been in the news is that with Mexico. The president-elect’s controversial plan to build a wall along the border between the US and its southern neighbor – and to have Mexico pay for it – has left many Americans wondering how Mexico will respond. Currently, SAGE Cons are equally likely to expect our country’s relations with Mexico to get better (32%), get worse (31%) or to stay the same (36%). In other words, despite the exchange of words between Mr. Trump and Mexican officials, many Christian conservatives believe it’s too early to predict what will transpire.
Only one of the relationships tested is expected by SAGE Cons to sour: our ties with China. Although three out of ten said that bond is likely to improve (29%), a slightly larger share of the SAGE Con segment contends that things are likely to deteriorate with the world’s most populous nation (34%). More than one-third (37%) thinks that our existing relationship with China is likely to remain unchanged.
Lots of Uncertainty
George Barna, Executive Director of the American Culture & Faith Institute, which conducted the survey, said the results reflect a mixture of optimism and uncertainty. “SAGE Cons seem to be balancing their hope in Mr. Trump’s negotiating skills with their uncertainty about his global agenda and strategy. Based on his remarks to date, they seem especially hopeful about a thawing in relations with Russia, but much less sanguine about our standing with the Chinese.”
The long-time researcher also pointed out that even though foreign relations is not an area in which the incoming president has had much experience, Christian conservatives believe he and his team will demonstrate generally positive abilities. “Given that Mr. Trump is neither a career politician nor someone with substantial experience managing the complexities of nation-to-nation relationships, Mr. Trump is entering office with a fairly strong vote of confidence in this area from SAGE Cons. His remarks about the strength of his negotiating skills have apparently defused the concerns that many people have had about his ability to handle the challenges of global diplomacy.”
About the Research
The research described in this report is part of the RightView™ longitudinal survey, a national study undertaken among spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives who are registered voters – a segment known as SAGE Cons. The national survey conducted for this report had a sample size of 675 qualified adults and was conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute from December 20 – 31, 2016.