2 May 2016

32% of Americans ready to punish NATO’s under spenders


It’s become a consistent theme of Donald Trump’s campaign; NATO members need to stop free-riding on US defence spending and, in a previous Portrait of America finding, we learnt that 42% of Americans agreed with him. 45% did not.

The subject was a key part of the Republican frontrunner’s foreign policy speech, delivered last week (and which I summarised here). Mr Trump vowed to call a special NATO summit to “discuss a rebalancing of financial commitments” but didn’t specify any repercussions if underspending NATO states* did not “rebalance”. We decided to find out what repercussions the US voter might be willing to entertain.

14% of the YouGov First Verdict panellists rejected even a diplomatic response, believing that America’s commitment to the defence of the North Atlantic democracies should be “unconditional”. Another 43% supported only “continued diplomatic pressure” of the kind we have often seen from Barack Obama. His administration was very forceful, for example, when the UK risked slipping below the 2% recommended spend. 10% of US voters were open to economic sanctions, however, and 22% backed “full withdrawal of US military support”. European member states who have become used to cutting their already think armed forces in order to afford rising welfare bills might be well advised to keep an eye on this American mood. You can be sure that Vladimir Putin is noticing.

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* Of Nato’s 28 members only America (3.6%), Poland (2.2%) and Britain (2.1%) meet the aspiration to spend one-fiftieth of national income on defence. Luxembourg spends just 0.5% and Spain 0.9%.

For more about Portrait of America and the methodology behind First Verdict, click here.

For the complete Portrait of America catalog, click here.

Tim Montgomerie is Editor of Portrait of America