The Libya Battles

April 01, 2011, 5:00 PM GMT+0

This Economist/YouGov Poll was conducted mostly before the President’s Monday night speech about the U.S. role in Libya. Americans have become divided on his management of the situation there. And while they support the action that has been taken by the U.S. and its allies, they are unsure about what to do next.

40% of the country now approves of the way the President is handling the situation in Libya; 37% disapproves. Among those aware of the situation in Libya, opinion is also split, with 44% approving and 44% disapproving. Approval has dropped slightly in the last week, while disapproval has gone up seven points, even though the airstrikes have been successful in setting up a no fly zone over Libya, and the rebels have begun to gain ground there.

(The public feels much better about the President’s handling of the response to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. 58% approve, and only 21% do not.)

It appears that Americans want only limited U.S. involvement in Libya. Last week, 67% favored having the international community impose a “no fly” zone in Libya (one was being imposed as the poll was conducted); this week, 58% of those who are aware of events there favor the enforcement of the zone. And while before this week’s poll, Republicans were more in favor of military engagement, including the “no fly” zone, now they are somewhat less supportive of it than Democrats are.

Overall, Americans support the actions already taken by the U.S., Britain, France and other allies in Libya by more than two to one.

There is no consensus about what should or will happen next. One in three want the coalition to actively try to remove Muammar Gaddafi from power, but 43% of those aware think the military action should only protect civilians. However, by more than two to one, if the opportunity arose, Americans want the coalition, to target Gaddafi personally — and try to kill him.

But Americans don’t know exactly what the goals of the mission are: by 51% to 33%, those following the uprisings say the goals of the U.N.-backed mission have not been made clear. They are not sure how the Libyan people view the mission: while many believe the Libyan people want Gaddafi out of power, 44% say they welcome the international military involvement, 32% say they see the coalition forces as enemies.

Americans would trust the U.S. – and the British — military to tell the truth about what is happening with the military mission, though they are divided on whether President Obama would do so (with Republicans very negative about the President).

Photo source: flickr ( شبكة برق | B.R.Q BRQ Network )

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