CHARLESTON – West Virginians may be leaning more toward an isolationist view of world affairs.
That might reflect the state’s widespread support of President Donald Trump, who has advocated an America-first philosophy — questioning international trade deals, imposing tariffs on traditional trading partners and pushing NATO members to pay more for defense.
Some responses in the latest WVMetroNews-Dominion Post poll show West Virginians less inclined to embrace an active American role in world affairs.
“This data kind of mirrors support for President Trump,” said professional pollster Rex Repass, the author of the West Virginia poll. “These numbers in terms of America’s role in the world tend to correlate with his level of support.”
Sixty-one percent agreed that “We should pay less attention to problems overseas and concentrate on problems here at home.”
That compared to 39 percent who responded, “It’s best for the future of our country to be active in world affairs.”
There were similar responses on a related question.
Sixty percent said “Good diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace.”
That compared to 40 percent who said, “The best way to ensure peace is through military strength.”
But on yet another question, 59 percent said, “Problems in the world would be even worse without U.S. involvement.”
Forty-one percent said, “U.S. efforts to solve problems around the world usually end up making things worse.”
The responses to the poll echo a 2016 conclusion by the Pew Research Center, which indicated more ambivalence about America’s role in the world.
Nearly six-in-10 Americans want the United States “to deal with its own problems and let other countries deal with their own problems as best they can,” Pew Research Center found.
Still, a majority of Americans (55 percent) support policies aimed at maintaining America’s status as the only military superpower.
That research concluded Americans “want to step back from the world but carry a big stick.”
Trump, whose popularity in West Virginia has been about 60 percent, has advocated for an America-first philosophy since the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Trump has picked up on the frustration that many Americans have with other countries, not spending the same percentage of gross domestic product on defense as NATO requires and also seeing some infrastructure or other needs that this country has,” Repass said.
“I believe that resonates with many West Virginians and Trump supporters. How are we spending precious dollars globally and are other countries spending their fair share? That’s Trump’s argument.”
An isolationist view was more prevalent in America prior to World War II. Since then, the U.S. has asserted a robust role on the world stage.
“That America-first ideology was really very present in the early 1940s prior to World War II with prominent Americans like Charles Lindbergh really believing America should not participate in a European War,” Repass said.
“From President Truman forward, since World War II and the beginning of the Cold War, every president — Democrat or Republican — believed in the global influence of America.”
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