No ground troops, but will air strikes be enough?

October 01, 2014, 2:34 PM GMT+0

Americans remain opposed to sending U.S. ground troops to fight ISIS, though many worry air strikes will not be enough.

Americans continue to support air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria overwhelmngly, as they have even before the president’s announcement that he would order such attacks. The latest Economist/YouGov Poll finds support for air strikes against ISIS wherever they are aimed: within the boundaries or Iraq or within Syria.

This is something for which there is bipartisan support. Although in recent years Republicans have taken the lead in favoring some military interventions, Americans of both parties have been in favor when it comes to these particular air strikes.

But Americans are not at all sure those air strikes will work. They continue to oppose sending ground troops into Iraq and Syria, but many aren’t sure that air strikes alone will be effective in fighting ISIS.

Democrats are more hopeful than Republicans on this, although just about as many Democrats say air strikes won’t work alone as think they will. By nearly four to one, Republicans believe air strikes alone won’t be enough.

The public may not believe ISIS can be stopped though air strikes only, but they hold out some hope that military action can make things better. Twice as many believe the U.S. military intervention will improve the situation in Iraq and Syria as think it will make things worse, a sentiment shared by those in both parties. However, the percentage believing U.S. intervention will make things worse – or make no difference at all, when combined, is greater than the 35% who think the end result will be positive.

Still, Americans oppose taking the next step– sending ground troops to Iraq or Syria. They have opposed ground troops ever since the subject of returning to Iraq has been suggested. In this week’s poll, a third are in favor; half say no.

The partisan differences in the willingness to send troops is clear: less than a third of Democrats are in favor, while nearly half of Republicans support sending ground troops to fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Independents express opinions similar to those of Democrats.

However, opposition now may not be opposition forever. Just about half of those who now oppose sending in ground troops leave the door open to the possibility, agreeing that the United States should “keep the option open.” 27% overall, and a third of Democrats say they would “completely rule out” sending ground troops.

Most Americans say it is very important that there be a multinational coalition fighting against ISIS, but less than half are aware that the multinational group involved in the air strikes includes Arab countries. In fact, Saudi Arabia, Jordan Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have launched strikes against ISIS. 47% in this poll say Arab countries have been involved; the rest disagree or admit they don’t know.

The president has made some gains – at least when it comes to his handling of Iraq. At 44%, approval is at the highest level since YouGov returned to asking the question this summer. Disapproval is also at 44%, down from 51% in mid-June.

There has been no change in the opinions of Americans when they judge the president’s overall job performance. This week, 42% approve of the way Barack Obama is handling his job overall, while 54% disapprove.

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.

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