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Kamala Harris, Foreign Policy, & Public Opinion

Joe Biden named Kamala Harris as his Vice President yesterday. While significant attention is (rightfully) being given to Harris’s views on social issues and prosecutorial record, we know much less about Harris’s foreign policy stances. However, Harris did provide answers to the Council on Foreign Relations during her presidential run in August 2019 on several important foreign policy issues.

What are some of Harris’s stances, and are they in line with the Democratic base? I answer these questions for seven key issues:

On these important issues, Harris seems to be mostly in line with the Democratic public. While the majority of Americans in the 2018 Chicago Council on Global Affairs survey supported the United States joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CP-TPP), Harris’s objections are inherently progressive, withholding support until the agreement bolsters labor and environmental protections. When Harris discusses trade on the campaign trail and in VP debates, this will likely end up being a winning message for Democrats and many Independents, despite the low support reported here.

It is also clear that Harris’s foreign policy stances appeal to Independent voters. A majority of Independents agree with Harris on re-entering into the JCPOA, withdrawing from Afghanistan, not sending troops to Venezuela to oust Nicolás Maduro, and re-entering the Paris Climate Agreement, with a near majority supporting cutting off money and resources funding Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

Harris and Democrats have work to do to sell Independent voters on a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, with a 2018 University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll finding that Independents and Republicans both list their preference as establishing a “single democratic state in which both Jews and Arabs are full and equal citizens, covering all of what is now Israel and the Palestinian Territories.”

Additionally, don’t expect Harris to let the inevitable Trump/Pence accusation of being “weak on China” go unchallenged. Though Harris disagrees with high tariffs on Chinese imports, as they are “crushing American farmers, killing American jobs, and punishing American consumers,” she is clear in her criticism of China’s human rights record. Harris told CFR, “We will cooperate with China on global issues like climate change, but we won’t allow human rights abuses to go unchecked. The United States must reclaim our own moral authority and work with like-minded nations to stand up forcefully for human rights in China and around the world.”

There is an adage that the VP cannot win the race for the ticket, but they can lose it. These data show that Harris, with high agreement with Democrats and moderately high agreement with Independents, is unlikely to lose voters on foreign policy issues.

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