COLLEGE PARK, Md., Nov. 1 (UPI) -- The majority of U.S. citizens believe fighting and eliminating the Islamic State militant group should be the country's top global priority, new research indicated Tuesday.
The Critical Issues Poll, released by the Behavioral and Social Sciences Department at the University of Maryland and involving Nielsen Scarborough, queried more than 1,500 Americans on a range of issues -- from world affairs, foreign policy and the U.S. presidential election.
Global priorities and foreign policy
When asked what the country's top two priorities should be, 53 percent included the war against the Islamic State. The second most common answer was the United States' immigration policy (38 percent). The third most popular response was the trade deficit.
Citizens' concern with terrorism was reflected in other questions, as well.
Forty-two percent of those asked replied that they would like to see more U.S. military activity in Syria -- compared to 34 percent who said the current U.S. involvement level is too high. Of those who want more involvement, 58 percent were Republicans.
Respondents also indicated a strong position regarding the United States' relationship with Russia, which is aligned with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Despite vast differences between Washington and Moscow, 60 percent of those polled said the United States should set aside its differences with Russia and work with Vladimir Putin's government to defeat Islamic State militants. Thirty-six percent opted for ignoring Russia and working only with allies.
Nearly seven in 10 people said they would like to see greater cooperation between Washington and Moscow on the matter. However, 63 percent said they oppose sending a large number of U.S. ground troops to Syria and Iraq to fight the group also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh.
Respondents also expressed concern for other foreign policy matters.
The rise of China rated as a "very important" issue to most polled -- as did North Korea and Iran. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and civil wars in Libya and Yemen drew lukewarm levels of concern from those asked.
2016 presidential election
The poll illustrated several beliefs on the forthcoming election, particularly about its top two candidates.
When asked which candidate would advance the interests of women, Democrat Hillary Clinton was the choice. Thirty-two percent said she would "greatly" advance women's interests, compared to 10 percent for Republican Donald Trump.
In fact, most people (51 percent) said Trump would not advance women's interests at all, compared to 19 percent who said that of Clinton.
More than 50 percent of respondents, conversely, said Trump would likely do more to advance U.S. economic interests than Clinton.
Regarding the recent audio tape from 2005 on which Trump made insensitive remarks about women, 45 percent agreed with Clinton that the tape showed "exactly who he is" -- while just 23 percent agreed with Trump that it was only "locker room talk."
Perhaps surprisingly, 16 percent of Republicans said that audio tape "increased" their support of Trump, compared to 72 percent who said it remained the same. Two percent of GOP voters said it decreased their support.
Among Democrats, the tape caused 47 percent to increase support for Clinton, 44 percent to stay the same and 3 percent to decrease their support.
Overall, nine in 10 respondents said the tape had no affect on their prior plans to vote for their candidate. Ten percent of undecided independent voters, however, said the tape has swayed them not to choose Trump -- a switch that could greatly benefit Clinton.
Forty-four percent of all respondents also said they disapprove of the way Trump handled the tape's release.
When asked to rate the race relations between blacks and whites in the United States, most (45 percent) answered they were "somewhat bad," compared to 30 percent who said they are "somewhat good." Three percent said they are "very good."
Fifty-two percent said relations between whites and Hispanics was "somewhat good," and 47 percent put relations between blacks and Hispanics in the same category.
The survey questioned 1,528 people between Oct. 5-14 and has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.