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Exclusive poll: Most Americans think Trump too soft on Saudi Arabia

Data: Survey Monkey online poll conducted Oct. 17-23, 2018 among 3,919 U.S. adults. Total margin of error is ±2.5 percentage points. Modeled error estimates: African-American women ±7.5, age 18 to 34 ±5.0, suburban white women ±5.0, “Never Hillary” Independent voters ±8.0, Rural voters ±4.5; Poll methodology; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Most Americans think President Trump hasn't been tough enough with Saudi Arabia in response to the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents, with just one third saying his response has been "about right" and only 5% thinking he has been too tough, according to a new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll.

Why it matters: Trump's approval rating on foreign policy has actually jumped, from 41% in August to 45% now, just shy of his 46% overall approval rating. But when it comes to the Khashoggi case, 37% of Republicans believe he has been too soft on the Saudis, along with 55% of independents and 78% of Democrats.

  • That's also the view of majorities of all five voter subgroups Axios is tracking ahead of the midterm elections — including rural voters and "Never Hillary" independents, who have been more supportive of Trump on other issues.

Trump's repeated statements that Saudi Arabia is a "strong ally" of the U.S. are also out of step with public opinion. Asked whether Saudi Arabia is an "ally" of the U.S., "friendly but not an ally," "unfriendly" or an "enemy," more Americans chose "unfriendly" (the top choice) or "enemy" than the first two options.

How it breaks down...

  • Ally: 10% overall, 14% of Republicans, 7% of Democrats
  • Friendly: 35% overall, 44% of Republicans, 29% of Democrats
  • Unfriendly: 37% overall, 31% of Republicans, 45% of Democrats
  • Enemy: 12% overall, 9% of Republicans, 15% of Democrats

There's also a partisan divide on Trump's response to Khashoggi's killing. Most Republicans (56%) think he's getting it "about right," compared to 11% of Democrats. Most Democrats (78%) think he has been too soft, along with 37% of Republicans.

The bottom line: The Khashoggi case has been a top news story for three weeks now leading up to the midterms, and Americans generally disapprove of how Trump is handling it. Still, they have bigger concerns. Just 4% consider foreign policy their top issue.

Methodology: This analysis is based on SurveyMonkey online surveys conducted Oct. 17-23 among 3,919 adults in the United States. The modeled error estimate  for the full sample is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. Sample sizes and modeled error estimates for the subgroups are as follows:

African-American Women (n=215 +/- 7.5%), Millennials Age 18 - 34  (n=642 +/- 5% ), White Suburban Women  (n=720 +/- 5% ), NeverHillary/Independent voters  (n=254 +/- 8% ), Rural  (n=963 +/- 4.5% ). Respondents for this survey were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. More information about our methodology here. Crosstabs available here.

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