I could show you lots of polls like this one from Gallup where foreign policy clocks in as the top concern for 1 percent of voters. Even if you add in national defense/security concerns and specific hotspots or issues like Afghanistan, Russia, and China and combine them, it’s still below concerns about the courts and the judiciary. But to prove how little the issue of world affairs matters to voters, especially when the president is not on the ballot, just ask yourself the last time you have ever seen a significant political expenditure on a foreign policy issue. But again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The American system and American voters—typically—defer to presidential prerogatives on international matters.
You wouldn’t want, for example, a former president going around and openly undermining his successor during an international crisis while simultaneously claiming that the successor’s authority is illegitimate. Never mind.
And one proviso about the proviso: Voters very much care about any consequences of international affairs, even if they shrug at the underlying cause. The 1974 drubbing that Republicans took was about Watergate and Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon two months before the election, but it was also about the Yom Kippur War. That was the pretext for the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries to institute an oil embargo that brutalized Americans already groaning under the weight of inflation. If you had asked swing voters whether control of the Golan Heights mattered to their vote, probably not. A 50 percent increase in the price of gasoline, if you could get it? You bet.
BREAKING: Just 26% of Americans say the U.S. should play a major role in the Russia-Ukraine conflict in a new AP-NORC poll. President Biden has argued that fundamental American values are at stake in Eastern Europe. https://t.co/ZK8SOFlWRR— The Associated Press (@AP) February 23, 2022