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A Retreating America?

The rise—and subsequent electionof Donald Trump fuels speculation that the pendulum of American sentiment has swung forcefully against globalization. Justifiably, multinational companies and allied foreign governments (among many, many others) are worried “Trumpism” is representative of a broad shift in American opinion in favor of isolationist foreign and trade policy. It would be an easy conclusion to reach based on voting patterns exhibited on November 8. But the reality is, of course, much more nuanced.

For the first time, we have a quality data set with which to analyze the sentiment that fueled Trumpand how it might affect American policy during the Trump Administration and beyond. The Chicago Council on Global Affairs conducted a comprehensive study of views towards foreign policy with specific eye toward core Trump supporters. The report is worth reading in its entirety. Its insights cut through rhetoric and get to the heart of a political movement that has captivated the nation and catapulted a political novice to the highest office in the land. This post will focus on unpacking a few key findings:

  • Core Trump supporters distaste for free trade and immigration mirrors a decade-old divergence between Republicans and Democrats
  • Demographic shifts, most notably the emergence of a diverse millennial generation, has the electorate trending toward support for globalization
  • Americans in generaleven core Trump supportersdo not believe the US should break away from international commitments, alliances, or a global military presence

Taken together, these three findings tell an important story. Concern over open borders (in both the literal and economic sense) is not new. Trumpism is certainly the loudest and most extreme iteration, but it’s a sentiment that has been separating Republicans and Democrats since the early aughts.

And despite Trump’s electoral success, the contingent of Americans who are the most opposed to globalization is quickly atrophying and being replaced by the largely pro-globalization millennial generation. Exit polls show that if only the millennial generation took part in the vote, Clinton would have won by an overwhelming margin.

It may be hard to believe in light of Tuesday’s result, but we are not witnessing a crescendo of American isolationism. We are witnessing its last stand.

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