New Study Shows Deep American Divisions on Foreign Policy

If you pay any attention to U.S. politics, then you already know that the Democratic and Republican parties are so divided over Iraq, the war on terrorism, the limits of the surveillance state, and a host of other thorny national security issues that party labels are no longer the best ways of segmenting American voters.

Take Iraq, for example. One wing of the Republican Party -- epitomized by men like Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham -- favors the use of aggressive military force to beat back extremist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. Another wing -- represented in part by Sen. Rand Paul -- wants the United States to cut back on its involvement in foreign conflicts to instead focus more of its time and attention on problems here at home. On the left, a similar divide between peaceniks and liberal hawks can leave one wondering how Sens. Bernie Sanders and Dianne Feinstein can caucus together.

To better understand these divisions, the Pew Research Center on Thursday released its latest report on American political groupings, which attempts to sort Americans into categories based on their ideological affinities. (For the political junkies out there, the full report is available here.) Among other things, the report paints a fascinating portrait of American attitudes on foreign policy and the degree to which the Democratic and Republican parties have a fundamentally different view of America's role in the world.

The report could not be more timely. Though President Obama entered office with a desire to recalibrate American foreign policy away from the aggressiveness of the Bush administration, the world has refused to comply with his desire to build a world order based more on cooperation than confrontation. In Iraq, Obama is now contemplating the use of military force in a country from which he proudly withdrew American forces. The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have failed. The Arab Spring is backsliding. Militancy is spreading in Africa. China is acting belligerently against its neighbors. Russia is annexing territory in its backyard. The world is up in arms over Edward Snowden's revelations of aggressive American intelligence collection against allies like German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Syria, once one of the region's most stable countries, is locked in a years-long civil war that has left hundreds of thousands dead and caused millions of refugees to flee to other countries.  

So how to make sense of these challenges and how the American people think about them? To get beyond the Democrat/Republican labels, Pew presents a new typology of the American people.

On the left, "solid liberals" comprise the base of the Democratic Party and believe deeply in an activist government. Meanwhile, the "faith and family left" supports an activist government but generally holds conservative views on social issues. They are more religious, make less money, and are composed more heavily of minorities. The "next generation left" is broadly composed of well-off and well-educated young people with broadly liberal views on social issues, including support for same-sex marriage.  

Moving toward the center of the political spectrum, so-called "hard-pressed skeptics" somewhat favor the Democrats but are skeptical toward both major parties. This segment of society is marked by financial distress and distrust of government.

Crossing over into Republican territory, so-called "young outsiders" hold a witches' brew of conservative and liberal ideas. They lean Republican but lack respect for both parties. Some 81 percent think the poor have it easy because of generous government benefits. They also mostly favor the legalization of marijuana. Meanwhile, so-called "business conservatives" might be called typical small-government Republicans. Leaving the country club, we encounter the "steadfast conservatives," who are on the right on most issues but are skeptical of Wall Street and big business.

As you may have intuited from the typology, the survey, which tallied the views of 10,013 people over a period from January to March, paints a portrait of an American electorate deeply divided about America's role in the world.

One of the survey's most striking findings is the degree to which the Republican Party is divided over foreign policy, presaging a fascinating 2016 presidential campaign that could pit a quasi-isolationist like Paul against more hawkish Republicans like Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Some 67 percent of business conservatives believe the United States should be highly involved in international affairs, while the other wings of the party mostly want to pull back from the world stage.

On the question of whether American involvement in world affairs only makes matters worse, a similar divide exists among conservatives. Interestingly, the two younger demographics -- young outsiders and the next generation left -- are also split on whether America is capable of doing good in the world. Young outsiders are skeptical about America's ability to improve the state of affairs, while their counterparts on the other side of the spectrum -- the next generation left -- are far more optimistic:

Obama's cautious approach to countries like Syria may have done nothing to quell those conflicts, but his embrace of diplomacy over military might has support across a broad spectrum of the American people. And those who favor a heavier reliance on the military would probably never vote for him anyway:

Similarly, a broad spectrum of the American people believes that a heavy reliance on the use of force to combat terrorism creates more enemies than it defeats:

On the heels of Snowden's revelations about aggressive American intelligence gathering, there is a palpable sense in Washington that the politics of intelligence are still governed by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The fear of a catastrophic attack is part of what has motivated both politicians and bureaucrats to oppose surveillance reform and improve privacy protections, but the American people appear increasingly unwilling to support that trade-off:

Liberals and conservatives are similarly united in disapproving of the NSA's collection of Internet and phone data:

But on China, the electorate is deeply divided. Unsurprisingly, more conservative Americans are more likely to support a tough approach to China, while liberals favor cooperation:

As Hillary Clinton and other potential 2016 presidential candidates start gaming out their campaigns, these divisions -- messy as they are -- will be things they take into consideration.

Scott Olson/Getty Images


The Ukraine Crisis, as Told Through Hip-Hop

Weapons cocked, a group of well-armed young men rap about their hatred for the government. It sounds like a scene straight from a ‘90s gangsta rap video, but it isn't -- it's from the frontlines of Ukraine's violent east.

Inspired by the recent turmoil, Ukraine's young, burgeoning hip-hop community has taken to interpreting its country's politics through its music, providing an unlikely and unfiltered window into the unfolding scene there. Their music videos, posted on YouTube, tell the story: Anger toward former President Viktor Yanukovych, distrust of the interim government, anxiety over the annexation of Crimea, and taunts for government forces in the east.

Here, then, is the hip-hop guide to the Ukrainian crisis:

Many have forgotten that the crisis began as a peaceful protest against Yanukovych. Under his rule, corruption in Ukraine spiraled out of control, with Ukraine ranking 144 out of 177 on Transparency International's 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index. Resentment toward Yanukovych's presidency and a desire among many Ukrainians to forge ahead finally crystallized in the Maidan protest movement.

Cue the following video. Made in December 2013, the song features Ukrainian YouTube personality Michael Shchur rapping about the corruption of Yanukovych's regime while walking through the Maidan at night. Referring to Yanukovych and his decadent lifestyle paid for out of the state coffers, Shchur sums up the sense of palatable disgust: "Your childhood dream became a reality/You have shoes made of ostrich leather, a couple Italian suits/You got them from nowhere, almost for free."

Fast forward to March and the crisis's dynamics shift dramatically. Yanukovych had fled the capital and the stock of right-wing nationalist groups, such as Right Sector, is rising after playing a critical role in battling the Berkut riot police. Fears of a nationalist revival are only exacerbated by an ultimately doomed effort to strip Russian of its status as one of Ukraine's minority languages. The inclusion of some right-wing nationalists in the interim government and a virulent Russian propaganda effort to brand the government in Kiev as fascist, contributing to fears, especially among the Russian minority, that the nationalist right is ascending.

The following video is indicative of this sentiment and is directed toward the "Banderists," a reference to Stephan Bandera, a highly controversial figure. Ukrainian nationalists view Bandera as a hero of independence who fought against Soviet oppression; Soviet and Russian history frames Bandera as a fascist and Nazi collaborator. The chorus of the song, "Bandera is a faggot," summarizes feelings in Ukraine's east toward the nationalist groups and Bandera. In criticizing what many in the east see as the pro-European leanings of Ukrainian nationalists and the decadence of the West, the video adds, "So you want a lot of tasty stuff?/ You really want it? -- suck Russian dick."

As tensions heighten, the country moves closer to the brink of war. Russia annexes Crimea later in March, bringing relations between Russia and the West to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War. Here, the Ukrainian rapper Yarmak tries on a more civil tone in an attempt to broker a dialogue between Russia and Ukraine. Directed at supporters of the Crimean annexation, Yarmak argues that all sides have suffered: "Come and sit near me/ Let's share the brother's pain/ I will tell about Crimea/ And you will tell me about Beslan and Volgograd," referring to the 2004 siege of a school in the Russian city of Beslan that left more than 300 hostages dead and two December 2013 suicide bombings that left 34 people dead in Volgograd.

By early April, fighting has broken out in the east. Mobs and militias seize government buildings and proclaim their independence from Kiev. In a call to arms, a militia in Lugansk, one flashpoint in the east, releases a rap video. With a Russian flag hanging in the background and fighters clutching Kalashnikovs and RPGs, they proclaim hatred for the government in Kiev and taunt the West: "We do not need your NATO/ We do not want your gay pride parades for our children." The song is full of references to Slavic brotherhood with Russia and the militia calls on the residents of Lugansk to put down the bottle and join the militia in fighting the Western-backed fascists.

In a similar video, the Russian Orthodox Army trashes the West and the ruling government, all the while professing the virtue of traditional values. The video stars Andrey Donskoy, a musician turned paramilitary fighter, who begins the video by rapping, "Freedom is a rare bird in this land/ If you don't stand for it you could lose everything." While saying hello to all his "southeastern homies," Donskoy raps verse after verse of Russian nationalism and describes their violent struggle as one waged in defense of the values of the Russian Orthodox Church. The chorus, which serves as a battle chant, helps brand the militia's odd combination of violence and religious values, saying: "For every fighter, we go to the end/ Until glorious victory on the battlefield/ Russian Orthodoxy!"


via YouTube