In comments, John Schwenkler argues that Republicans’ generic advantage on national security has declined significantly in recent years. I’d certainly like to believe him. It would be downright perverse for the party most responsible for Iraq to retain any credibility on issues relating to homeland defense or terrorism.
And yet McCain is still perceived as more trustworthy on national security. A majority of the public remains convinced that we’re “winning” the war on terror. And according to this recent Pew Survey, voters who think national security and terrorism are the most important issues overwhelmingly favor Republican candidates.
Other polls are a bit more mixed. This survey from September suggests that Republicans are still overwhelmingly favored on national security and terrorism. A more recent report from October shows the parties about even.
I don’t think Republicans’ advantage on national security is completely insulated from Iraq, but the war hasn’t provoked any sort of sea change in public opinion. At best, Iraq has equalized the playing field between Democrats and Republicans on national security, which is a lot less heartening in a world where liberals have taken to aping Republican belligerence. Another odd thing I’ve noticed is that people don’t associate competence on Iraq with other issues related to homeland security. The Pew Survey, for example, shows that Democrats are favored by voters who think Iraq is the most important issue, but a majority of voters who prioritize terrorism and national security continue to support Republicans. Hardly encouraging stuff for anyone who hoped that the past eight years would prompt a broader reevaluation of our foreign policy priorities.