Democrats looked to gun control while Republicans focused on the growing terrorism threat as foci in the election. When polled before the act of terrorism in San Bernardino, almost two thirds of Americans believe that an act of terrorism is likely on American soil. The fear has only risen and the public demands action to take place sooner since the acts in California. Recent polls show that voters find political elites inept at developing a strategy for national security. Furthermore, polls show that when political elites do come to a solution, it is not warmly received. Specifically looking at ISIS, 68% of those polled think that America’s response has not been tough enough.
This opinion shared by the electorate allowed Republican candidate Donald Trump to fill a need for tighter restrictions on national security policy as well as call attention to American institutions greatly in need of repair. Trump continues to play on American fear of terrorism in order to maintain his support amongst a third of Republicans, which is the support keeping him as the Republican frontrunner. He consistently criticizes President Obama for refusing to put blame on “radical Islamic terrorism.” Trump went so far as vowing to close mosques and create a database of Muslims in the United States to promising to profile Muslims. Trump cites the recent terrorist attacks as more than enough reason to take part in such extreme measures. However, the notion of profiling Muslims was not supported by most of the other Republican candidates such as Christie and Bush.
Hillary Clinton took a more domestic stance by defending her call for stricter gun control after investigators called the attack in California an act of terrorism. While Republican candidates focused on Islamic extremism, Clinton and Sanders sought to tighten the restrictions on access to semi-automatic weapons. Clinton also stated that she would not use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” because it “sounds like we are declaring a war against a religion.” Bernie Sanders additionally declined to use the phrase to avoid invoking racial tensions and focused on cracking down on those who purchase guns on behalf of those who cannot legally acquire guns, banning assault weapons, and declaring gun trafficking a federal crime. Overall, the attack in San Bernardino became a contentious matter in the upcoming election and a focus in national security.