This Study Shows Why Donald Trump's Ridiculed "America First" Vision Might Win with Voters

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Donald Trump got roundly mocked after delivering a major "America First"-themed foreign policy speech his critics called confusing and light on detail.

"'America First' will be the major and overriding theme of my administration," Trump said in the April 27 address.

Turns out the oft-underestimated presumptive Republican presidential nominee might again be on to something.

Read more: Donald Trump Lays Out Broad-Brush Foreign Policy Platform in Washington Address

A new study by the Pew Research Center reports "most Americans say it would be better if the U.S. just dealt with its own problems and let other countries deal with their own problems as best they can."

Trump's bellicose talk dovetails with many of the attitudes unveiled by the report, which finds Americans not only believe the U.S. spends too much time and money serving as the "world's policeman," but should step up defense spending in the face of foreign threats.

In fact, more Americans support boosting defense spending than at any time since the aftermath of 9/11, Pew found.

This potentially spells good news for the GOP candidate, who bested the Republican primary field while promising to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and "bomb the shit out of ISIS."

Trump is famous for hammering the idea that "America doesn't win anymore," and aspects of the Pew study seem to back that up: "While Americans remain skeptical of U.S. international involvement, many also view the United States as a less powerful and important world leader than it was a decade ago."

The possible benefits of the study's showings also extend to the Trumponomics model, which is strongly flavored with protectionism

According to Pew, "Nearly half of Americans (49%) say U.S. involvement in the global economy is a bad thing because it lowers wages and costs jobs; fewer (44%) see this as a good thing because it provides the U.S. with new markets and opportunities for growth."

To be sure, there are some international relations trouble spots for Trump in the Pew report.

Source: Evan Vucci/AP

"While Trump recently called into question the value of U.S. participation in NATO, Americans overwhelmingly view NATO membership as beneficial," Pew reports. "About three-quarters of Americans (77%) say being a member of NATO is a good thing for the United States."

Will Trump's message sell? Trump batted his last two primary competitors out of the way this week, and if current trends hold, Democrats will nominate Hillary Clinton to face him in November.

As former secretary of state, Clinton has put her diplomacy pedigree to work in face-offs against Bernie Sanders. She will surely highlight Trump's lack of experience in the area if and when the two fight it out in the general election.

While she's got the advantage of a diplomatic track record, the Pew study shows that nationalist, isolationist views aren't limited to fans of Trump's "Make America Great Again" message.

Source: Seth Wenig/AP

"Identical shares of Republicans and Democrats (39% each) — as well as 47% of independents — say the U.S. should mind its own business internationally," the report says.

And although running the State Department may be the highlight of Clinton's resume, Americans are overwhelmingly more focused on matters at home, with 70% saying "it is more important for the next president to focus on domestic policy than foreign policy."

The key to the presidency? The study also sets up a scenario in which the candidates could end up trying to tailor their military policy pitch to appeal to a growing demographic: millennials.

"Young people are far less likely than older adults to say U.S. policies should try to ensure its sole superpower status," Pew noted. "Just 43% of those under age 30 support this goal, while 51% say it would be acceptable if another nation became as militarily powerful as the U.S."

Clinton has consistently led in hypothetical general election match-ups against Trump, but his drive for the presidency has thus far defied predictions to an astounding degree. 

Studies like the Pew report suggest that given prevailing American sentiments about their place in the world, a Trump presidency is far from inconceivable.

Voters will choose a new leader in 186 days.

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Celeste Katz

Celeste Katz is senior political correspondent at Mic, covering national politics. She is based in New York and can be reached at celeste@mic.com.

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