Libya: How Involved Should the U.S. Be?

April 08, 2011, 5:00 PM GMT+0

Americans don’t want the U.S. acting alone when it comes to military intervention, and while half of those interviewed in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll believe the recent interventions in Libya were the right thing to do, there is still confusion about what happens next.

By more than two to one, Americans describe the actions of the United States and its allies in Libya as the right thing to do. But among those who are aware of the Libya uprising, Republican opposition increased by seven points in the past week. Democrats remain strongly supportive of the President. 

Do you think Britain, France, the U.S. and other countries are right or wrong to take military action in Libya?Asked if respondent is aware of unrest in Libya












Not sure





There is still majority support for enforcing the no fly zone over Libya (though support from Republicans has dropped in the last week). But there is little interest in going further. Just 13% favor the international community arming the Libyan rebels, and only 9% would send ground troops to Libya to help them. But 43% would target Gaddafi to try and remove him from power. Similar percentage of Republicans and Democrats would like to see this happen. 

17% of Republicans would take none of these actions. 11% of Democrats say that.

Even though most Americans don’t want to take further military actions to help the rebels in Libya, more expect the rebels to win than think Muammar Gaddafi will remain in power. Democrats are especially hopeful. 

And Americans believe that most Libyans want Gaddafi out of power. Only 2% think most Libyans want Gaddafi to remain in power. 44% believe Libyans both want Gaddafi out and support the international action. But 29% think that while Libyans would like to remove Gaddafi, they think of the international coalition as enemies.

Opinion remains divided on how President Obama is handling the uprisings in Libya. 43% approve, while 44% disapprove.

Americans support military involvement by the United States in principle when the U.S. intervenes alongside its allies. Fewer than one in ten say the U.S. has a responsibility to intervene in trouble spots alone, but 54% support this when it is done with its allies. One in four rejects this role entirely. 

All of the countries that have seen popular uprisings recently are seen as important to U.S. interests, but none more so than Egypt, where protests forced Hosni Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for 30 years, out of power. Americans prefer that the U.S. government support a democratically-elected leader, regardless of the leader’s attitude to the U.S. rather than a non-democratic government that is a U.S. ally — as Mubarak was. But the gap is small, with Republicans especially conflicted, and many Americans not sure either way. 

Image source: flickr ( US Army Africa )

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