One of the primary constitutional duties of an American president is to be commander in chief of U.S. military forces. Yet, after just 10 months of President Joe Biden, Americans lack confidence that our 79-year-old commander in chief is up to the challenge of leading the U.S. in the event of a military threat.
The response is sure to worry Democrats, given the beleaguered Biden administration’s recent sharp decline in favorability. Overall, among those responding, a plurality of 48% said they were “not confident” that Biden would be effective as commander in chief during a military emergency, while 45% said they were confident.
These and other data emerged from November’s I&I/TIPP Poll. The poll of 1,306 adults was conducted online from Oct. 27-29 by TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, I&I’s polling partner. The margin of error is +/-2.8 percentage points.
As has almost always been the case in recent years, party loyalties define a sharp split among Americans on key issues. Confidence in Biden’s ability to perform as commander in chief is no different.
Democrats by a large margin of 79% to 17% say they are “confident” in Biden’s ability to be the nation’s military chief in the event of an emergency. Conversely, just 16% of Republicans say they think Biden can do the job, while 81% say no.
That leaves the swing-voter group of those who call themselves independents and “other”: 55% of them say they are not confident in Biden, versus 34% who say they are.
Another political schism emerges when looking at the data for men and women: Women (50% not confident, 41% confident) are more likely to lack faith in Biden’s military leadership than men (45% not confident, 49% confident).
Race is yet another point of division. White Americans overwhelmingly lack confidence in Biden, 57% to 37%. Black Americans go the other direction: 72% express confidence in Biden the military leader, compared to just 18% who don’t. Hispanics lie somewhat in between, 55% confident, but with a surprisingly large 40% saying they lack confidence.
Differences arise, too, by geography. Urban dwellers are strongly confident in Biden (61% confident to 33% not confident) as compared to suburbanites (41% confident to 51% not confident) and rural Americans (33% confident to 61% not confident).
All in all. these data suggest that Biden’s national security leadership, no less than his domestic policy leadership, is of deep concern to many Americans.
Perhaps these numbers are not surprising, given Biden’s poor management so far of potential U.S. security threats. Biden has been criticized on a bipartisan basis for some of his moves.
For instance, the president’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan left hundreds of Americans stranded in that country. This alarmed many in the U.S. because of the obvious lack of planning and poor execution, and Biden’s refusal to heed military advice that he should keep a force of 2,500 inside Afghanistan to maintain stability there.
Worse, the U.S.’ rushed, chaotic Afghanistan departure led to a suicide bomb attack that killed 13 U.S. service members, followed by a retaliatory U.S. drone attack that took the lives of 10 Afghani civilians, including seven children. It also returned Afghanistan to Taliban control, creating another potential threat of future anti-U.S. terrorism.
Other potential long-term military threats to U.S. security include:
China, which has ratcheted up both its military belligerence and its anti-U.S. rhetoric as it threatens Taiwan and seeks to dominate its Asian neighbors.
Even now, China is working on a hypersonic missile program that would leapfrog current U.S. abilities and leave the entire country vulnerable to attack. Meanwhile, a recent report also notes that China is “racing ahead” of the U.S. Navy in ship building, even as it finishes a new-generation, high-tech aircraft carrier seen as a direct to challenge American naval dominance in the western Pacific Ocean.
With an increasingly hostile Chinese leader Xi Jinping now declared president for life by the Communist Party’s recent Sixth Plenum, the possibility of a military clash or outright war has grown significantly.
Russia has begun a concerted campaign to harass and bully its neighbors, including Ukraine and Poland, using both its clout in energy markets and its large military. Like China, it’s begun an aggressive military buildup, including both hypersonic missiles and new cutting-edge nuclear weapons to enhance its threat to both Europe and the U.S.
Then there’s Iran, whose ruling mullahs have taken advantage of Biden’s weak foreign policy and declining popularity to ramp up their own destabilizing and threatening nuclear program. This, even as Biden removes U.S. missiles from Saudi Arabia, Iran’s main nemesis in the Mideast, solely to appease Tehran.
Finally, of course, there’s the risks of Islamist terrorism in the U.S. 20 years after 9/11. The Biden administration’s much-criticized complacency about the risks has set off a firestorm of debate. The official policy now is that domestic terrorism, not the foreign kind, is the real threat.
All of this has made Americans feel that the U.S. is much more vulnerable to military challenges and possibly even war from its main global foes. Americans fear this not only weakens us, but also our traditional allies, who now openly question the sincerity of U.S. military commitments abroad.
I&I/TIPP will continue to provide more informative data from our polls in the coming weeks and months on this topic and others of interest to Americans. TIPP has distinguished itself by being the most accurate pollster for the past five presidential elections.
Terry Jones is an editor of Issues & Insights. His four decades of journalism experience include serving as national issues editor, economics editor and editorial page editor for Investor’s Business Daily.