Libya, War Powers and NATO Action: Just 10% Think Congressional Approval Not Required

June 23, 2011, 5:00 PM GMT+0

Americans in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll want President Obama to get Congressional approval for U.S. military involvement in Libya, and while more still support the military action than do not, most are unsure of the goals of the mission.

In principle, Americans believe that Congressional approval for any U.S. military involvement is necessary, though most would give the President some leeway in cases when getting Congressional approval might not be possible. 22% say getting Congressional approval is always necessary, while only 10% think the President should not be constrained in committing American troops. 

Republicans in Congress are now calling for a Congressional vote on U.S. military action in Libya, and it has become a partisan issue there. But majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents think the President should ask for Congressional approval whenever possible before committing U.S. troops.

When it comes to the specific case of Libya, however, partisanship among the public becomes more apparent. Asked about Barack Obama’s decision NOT to seek Congressional approval for U.S. involvement in Libya, Americans oppose that by more than two to one, with many unsure. Democrats support that decision 29% to 23%, Republicans oppose it 69% to 7%.

More than a third of Americans would even go as far as to support Congress withholding funding for the Libya military action. One in four would not. Many have no opinion on this. But most Americans have little confidence in Congress in general: in this week’s poll, just 15% approve of the way Congress is handling its job.

Americans who are aware of the conflict (87%) still support it, 39% to 27%, but a third of the public is not sure. In last week’s poll, there was slightly more support, suggesting that, as has been the case in many recent military conflicts, public support declines as military action goes on. 

Republicans and independents are closely divided on Libya military actions, while Democrats support U.S. involvement by over two to one. Most Americans think the goals of the mission are not clear.

The military actions in Libya are being conducted by a NATO-led coalition, though there is extensive U.S. involvement. Six in ten Americans have at least a fair amount of confidence in the military capability of NATO, though Republicans are more skeptical. 

Americans support U.S. membership in NATO 50% to 16%. But like so many questions on foreign policy, there is a significant percentage with no opinion. And there are partisan differences. Democrats and independents support U.S. membership in NATO by wide-margins, while Republicans support membership by a smaller margin.

In this week’s poll, more Americans disapprove of the President’s handling of the situation in Libya than approve, as has been the case in recent weeks. 

Overall, the president gets mixed reviews. In this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll, 44% approve of the way he is handling his job as President; slightly more, 50%, disapprove. 

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