Originally Published 2016-01-07 06:38:42 Published on Jan 07, 2016
US presidential polls: What to expect?
As we enter into 2016, anticipation and speculations are rife among political analysts and commentators on the trends and developments that are likely to dominate the presidential race. From the start of 2015, presidential hopefuls on both the Democratic and Republican side have been working vigorously on their respective campaigns – declaring their agenda, raising funds and cultivating supports. By the turn of the year to 2016, most of American voters are well acquainted with the policy positions taken by the US presidential hopefuls on various issues. However, the race has only begun as the primaries and the caucuses commences from the start of February. The first contest of the 2016 election cycle will be the Iowa caucuses. There is a traditional saying that there are three tickets out of Iowa, meaning that only the top three candidates in each party’s caucuses have a chance of securing the nomination. Looking ahead, the year 2016 would be critical for candidates’ as they consolidate their policy positions instead of indulging in polarizing comments and verbal attacks on opponents. One of the emerging trends for 2016 elections – which are also substantiated by opinion polls and surveys – is that elections are going to be dominated by foreign policy issues. Economic concerns have traditionally dominated elections and would continue to remain one of the more important issues for elections in 2016. However, with the positive trend of the US economy doing well and bouncing back with unemployment rate down to 5.5 percent, economic concerns that dominated the 2008 and 2012 presidential races are seemingly less critical in 2016. In its place presidential hopefuls’ ability to address complex global challenges such as countering Islamic state militants in Syria and Iraq, managing Iran, diffusing the crisis in Ukraine and the rise of China has assumed critical importance. Leading candidates from both sides of the spectrum have come out with roadmaps on how to fight ISIS. Calling the ISIS activities in the Middle East as genocide, Hillary Clinton announced a three-pronged strategy to defeat ISIS – defeating ISIS in Syria and Iraq and across the Middle East; disrupting and dismantling the growing terrorist infrastructure that facilitates the flow of fighters, financing arms and propaganda around the world; and hardening American and allies defenses against external and home-grown threats. Jeb Bush similarly put forward his plans of defeating the ISIS and additionally, proposed that American troops need to be embedded in the Iraqi military. While candidates have all in their own ways tried to lay down strategies how their administrations would defeat the ISIS, none of the candidates seems to have a vision which is starkly different from what the Obama administration has been doing. Apart from debates on American engagement in the Middle East, the Asia-Pacific especially the management of relations with China is another issue that has gained attention from the candidates. Most Republican candidates have taken a position which is mostly belligerent towards China. As China remains an important election issue, Senator Marco Rubio has stated that America needs to stop a policy of appeasement towards China as being followed by the Obama administration despite China’s mounting aggressions. While suggesting cooperation with China when possible, Rubio mentioned that if elected he would approach China on the basis of strength and example and not weakness and appeasement. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders has hinged his campaign to a great extent talking about the economic woes of America’s middle class. His policy towards China also stems from the fact that free trade with China has hurt American workers. In turn, it has enriched big Wall Street corporations and has been detrimental to the environment. Sanders claim that over two million American jobs have been outsourced to China since 2001. While presidential candidates’ debate these foreign policy goals, mounting attack from the Republicans has come to the Democrats for following a weak immigration policy. In 2015, political space was crowded with issues of immigration being discussed and debated among the candidates. In spite of polarizing comments and personal attacks, Donald Trump is likely to remain an important phenomenon of the 2016 elections. While it was speculated that his campaign would fizzle out by the end of 2015, Trump surprisingly has held on to his popularity ratings in the polls at 34%. However, it is highly unlikely that he would win the Republican Party’s nomination as he has already earned a notorious reputation of being an anti-establishment candidate. The entry of another ‘anti-establishment’ candidate Ted Cruz has come as a surprise as Cruz has supplanted Ben Carson, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. In 2016, one could expect an intensification of rivalry between Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio whilst all the leading surveys conducted by CNN/ORC, Quinnipiac, FOX News, PPP (D) and ABC/Washington show Jeb Bush’s consistently poor performance in spite of efforts to revamp his campaign. On the other side, the Democratic field is only getting narrower. In all the surveys conducted by Rasmussen Reports, CNN/ORC, Quinnipac, FOX News, ABC/Wash Post, PPP (D), Hillary Clinton has a huge lead over her opponents Sanders and O’Malley. Her popularity is only steadily rising although Bernie Sanders continues to give tough competition to Clinton. While the mood in the United States is shaping towards a tense political environment as Democrats and Republicans clash over the major issues with existing hyper-partisanship along party lines, economists say they are expecting the economy to be placid. A New York Times of leading economic forecasters showed that the majority of candidates are confident that unemployment rate would be at its lowest level since George W. Bush ran in 2000. In the coming year, all candidates will focus concerted efforts in laying out plans on how to deal with issues of terrorism, refugee crisis in Syria, protecting the environment and improving the US carbon footprint. Courtesy: US Elections 2016 Monitor
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