I recently stumbled across a website that polls the opinions of international relations scholars on their research, their opinions and contemporary politics questions. Now, last month The Teaching, Research and International Policy Organization (TRIP) came out with a poll asking a series of questions about the impact of the U.S elections on U.S foreign policy. Some of the answers seem quite in line with what you would expect, and some may be a bit surprising too.
Now, it is safe to say that President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden have very differing views on a lot of foreign policy issues. Then Vice-President Joe Biden helped foster and bring to life the Paris Climate Agreement, which President Donald Trump famously pulled out of in 2017. Biden also served under the Obama Administration which oversaw the Iran Nuclear Deal (JCPOA), which President Trump also withdrew from in 2018.
A trend that I found apparent during the Trump presidency was reducing the focus on Climate Change cooperation efforts internationally and a distrust and criticism of multilateral cooperation through international institutions (remember Trump’s threatening to defund the World Health Organization). For those that want more international cooperation on Climate Change, the data from The Teaching, Research and International Policy Organization (TRIP) shows that of the 706 international relations scholars that responded to the question;
There was a clear majority voting within the 60-100% range, where answering 0 meant no change and 100 meant likely to be very different. This shows that the academic community, at least the respondents of this poll, predict a significant shift away from Trumpist denialism of climate change and a move towards a different approach, one that could remind us of the Obama Administration's methods.
The second trend that I identified from Trump’s presidency was the distrust and criticism of multilateral cooperation and international institutions. The same polls provide what seems like promising predictions for how a Biden Administration will affect the likelihood of cooperation between foreign governments and the United States. The respondents were asked;
The consensus is clear; international relations scholars believe that a Biden Administration will strengthen the likelihood for cooperation between the United States and foreign governments. Whether they will turn out to be correct will of course be a different question all together, but a Biden Presidency with what will most likely entail more respect and less criticism of international institutions seems promising for cooperation going forward.
Lastly, I found one data-set that captured my attention. It concerns using military force abroad and whether Joe Biden or Donald Trump would use it more actively if they were to be elected. Keep in mind that this poll was done back in September, before the results of the election. Now, the question, which was asked to 706 academics concerning themselves with international affairs, asked;
What we find with the two-party system in the U.S is that both Democrats and Republicans have a history of actively using military force abroad. Whether it be President George Bush engaging in the 1990 Persian Gulf War in Iraq, or President Clinton’s actions in Yugoslavia, there seems to be no hard-defined historical line between the two parties on the use of military force. The graph reiterates this idea, by showing no consensus between academics on whether or not a Biden Administration will affect the use of military force abroad. In fact, nearly 45% answered that the outcome of the elections will not affect the frequency with which the United States uses military force abroad.
From an academic perspective, this might reflect a belief in military action being defined not by domestic factors, but international system factors. For example, hard-line modern day realists like Mearsheimer and Walt pay little attention to domestic factors for explaining state behaviour. Or maybe it is simply explained by the lack of knowing what future conflicts might come up, and what response they deem those conflicts warrant. Regardless, in the face of past Trump tweets about being ‘prepared to launch fire and fury on North Korea’ the polling answers may surprise some people.
These were just a few of more than 20 questions that were asked to scholars of international politics, which I found worthy of showing. Do these predictions mean anything substantial? Maybe they do, maybe they don't. At the very least, it shows that U.S IR scholars are hopeful that President-elect Joe Biden will take Climate Change more seriously and increase multilateral cooperation between the U.S and foreign governments.
Peterson, Susan, Ryan Powers, and Michael J. Tierney. 2018. TRIP Snap Poll XI: Presidential Election 2020. Williamsburg, VA: Global Research Institute. Available at https://trip.wm.edu/data/dashboard/snap-poll-dashboard.