The US 2016 election is crucial for the future of the United States and of huge importance for the rest of the world. In the run up to the election, the US and the Americas Programme is publishing a series of papers examining major US foreign policy issues and the relative positions of the leading presidential candidates.

During the campaign period, presidential candidates’ positions on issues often adjust and evolve depending on the timing, the opposition they face, and the audience they are trying to woo. The nomination process, in particular, can push candidates to the fringes of the spectrum as they seek to differentiate themselves from the challengers within their own parties.

As the messages candidates send out during the election are rarely aimed at an international audience, it is easy for misperceptions of the United States to develop. It is important, therefore, for foreign governments, corporations, and civil societies to understand the dynamics driving US debates on international policies during an election campaign and how rhetoric is likely to relate to actual policy once in power. 

In the run up to the 2016 election, the US and the Americas Programme is publishing a series of papers examining the major US foreign policy issues, exploring the background that shapes each issue, and the relative positions of the leading candidates in the race. These papers provide independent analysis that goes beyond what the candidates say, and draws upon an understanding of their history in office, where relevant, and their domestic and foreign policy teams to provide a deeper and more rounded assessment of their likely approach to major foreign policy issues. After the election, these papers inform a final report that charts the victor’s likely foreign policy approach for their forthcoming presidential term.

This project is a continuation of our previous work that examined the US 2012 presidential election. Our work looked at the key foreign policy issues shaping the 2012 presidential race and the potential differences in policy and engagement between a Mitt Romney presidency and President Obama.   

This project is supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

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