An opinion survey taken before the recent U.S.-led military action against Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen found strong concern that disruptions in the Red Sea would elevate food and energy prices here at home.
The new polling from TIPP Insights surveyed 1,401 adults about the Houthi rebels’ attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea.
The survey first established the extent to which respondents were tracking the issue, finding Americans closely divided: 48% said they’re following the issue very or somewhat closely, while 46% said they’re not following it very closely, or not at all. Only 6% say they were unaware of the Houthi attacks on commercial shipping.
Broken down by party line, 52% of Democrats, 49% of Republicans, and 43% of independents said they are aware of the attacks, suggesting this generally isn’t a partisan issue.
Once this baseline was established, TIPP Insights posed three additional questions to those respondents who said they were following the Houthi attacks.
The first question, which got the most dramatic results, asked whether respondents were very, somewhat, not very, or not at all concerned that the attacks might disrupt vital supply chains of commodities such as food and energy.
Fully 89% answered that they were very or somewhat concerned, while only 9% said they were not. The smallest group of respondents in the survey, just 2%, said they had no opinion.
These results remained consistent across all demographics. Although younger voters were marginally less concerned than their older counterparts, the survey found that those concerned still had a significant majority that held across genders and ethnic groups.
In other words, for the roughly half of the U.S. electorate tracking the Red Sea issue, the majority anticipates a rise in domestic prices for vital goods because of the disruptions, which should get the attention of both parties at the outset of 2024.
Given that the price of Brent crude already is creeping up over $80 per barrel because of extended voyages around the Cape of Good Hope to deliver cargoes, this concern is likely to intensify in coming months.
The survey’s second question asked whether respondents placed the primary blame for the attacks on Iran’s Islamist regime, the Israel-Hamas war, or both.
The largest group of respondents, 42%, said they blamed both, and the second largest, 32%, said they blamed Tehran, a result that suggests 74% of American voters consider the Iranian regime at least partially culpable for the turmoil.
Only 15% said they blamed the Israel-Hamas war and, when the response of “both” was accounted for, 57% blamed the war.
It’s worth noting that of the 671 voters surveyed who said they were following the issue and so moved on to the additional questions, the single largest age demographic was 25 to 44, with a total of 230 respondents.
This group was considerably more likely to blame the Houthis’ attacks on the Israel-Hamas war (24%) than were those 18 to 24 (14%), 45 to 64 (12%), or 65 and older (7%), so the real percentage of Americans who blame Israel and the war may be lower.
The third question revealed the starkest partisan divide in the survey. “How confident are you,” it asked, “that President [Joe] Biden’s Operation Prosperity Guardian will secure commercial shipping in the Red Sea?”
Overall, 52% of respondents said they either were very confident or somewhat confident that Biden would be successful, compared with 41% who said they weren’t confident and 8% who said they’re not sure. That should be welcome news for the president.
Democrats were significantly more confident, with 81% responding positively and only 11% disagreeing. But the numbers for the other political groups tell a different story: Only 26% of Republicans and 41% of independents said they have a degree of confidence in Operation Prosperity Guardian, compared to 68% and 49%, respectively, who said they don’t.
So although Biden’s action has the strong support of those in his base who are following events in the Red Sea, he is underwater on the issue not only with conservatives but also with independents. These survey results could signal broader unease with Biden’s performance as commander in chief.
TIPP Insights conducted its polling as Houthi attacks on commercial shipping were escalating, but before the Biden administration took retaliatory action Jan. 11 and 12.
While the Houthis rebels’ immediate response was muted, they escalated retaliation and struck two commercial vessels in recent days. There are no indications that the U.S.- and U.K.-led airstrikes restored freedom of navigation in the region—in fact, all reports are that shipping is still being diverted in the wake of the airstrikes.
Electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla, for example, announced a two-week hiatus in production at German factories due to lack of components.
If the Houthi threat isn’t neutralized and this type of stoppage spreads in coming weeks, supply chain disruptions will start to compound in a fashion that may grip the American electorate more broadly as primary voters head to the polls.
Victoria Coates, a veteran national security expert, is a vice president at The Heritage Foundation, where she oversees the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy.
The article first appeared in the Daily Signal. Original article link