So much for war weariness. The Obama administration may not be ready to send US troops back into combat in Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS, but the American public seems to be. The oft-cited weariness with war is not much in evidence in the latest Fox News poll, which shows that a majority of likely voters would support sending combat troops back into the theater. Actually, there isn’t much difference in this poll between registered voters and likely voters on the question of using ground troops to fight ISIS. Among likely voters, it’s 53/41, while among the larger sample of registered voters, support for using combat troops is 52/42 — virtually identical.
The question does come with a caveat, emphasis mine: “If airstrikes aren’t enough, would you favor or oppose adding U.S. ground troops to the fight against ISIS?” That may seem to be a rather significant caveat, since we are at the beginning of the air strike campaign, but the next question shows just how much confidence voters have in Barack Obama’s strategy. Only 23% of likely voters believe air strikes alone will defeat ISIS, while 58% think it will take ground troops; among the full sample of registered voters, it goes to 24/57, a slight decline in confidence from early September’s 27/51.
The next two confidence questions produce even worse numbers for the White House. Only 26% of respondents believe the Obama administration has a clear strategy to deal with ISIS, while 64% do not; among likely voters, it’s 25/66. Majorities in both groups believe the US has not been aggressive enough (55% overall, 57% LV) against ISIS, while only a third think the US has been aggressive enough — and just 6% (5% LV) think we’ve been too aggressive.
Those are not ringing endorsements of the White House’s ISIS strategy, and stand in pretty stark contrast to yesterday’s WaPo/ABC poll on Obama’s approval rating in dealing with ISIS. That boost may have come mainly from the fact that Obama appeared to be finally addressing the situation rather than real approval; the split between support for the airstrikes and Obama’s rating certainly suggested that anyway. This poll suggests that even more strongly.
There are hints of that in Obama’s approval ratings in this poll, too. His overall RV approval bounced back from 38/56 in early September before announcing his strategy to defeat ISIS to 40/52 (39/53 LV, from 38/57 in early September). His RV approval rating on terrorism is 41/53 (41/54 LV), slightly up from 38/56 (38/57 LV). These are still near series-long lows, though, and not much change considering the big speech and the ramped-up airstrikes that took place in between those two polls. One would expect a rally-’round-the-flag impact to be much greater than this at the start of a war, but whatever such impulse exists appears to have been muted almost entirely from a lack of confidence in the strategy itself.
Terrorism is still Obama’s strongest issue in this poll, which gives one a clear idea of how the President has cratered among voters:
- Terrorism: 41/53 (41/54 LV)
- Economy: 40/55 (40/56 LV)
- Iraq: 38/53 (38/54 LV)
- Foreign policy: 35/55 (35/56 LV)
- Syria: 34/54 (34/56 LV)
Aaron Blake at the Washington Post says the war weariness question is moot anyway, because this poll shows that a large majority of Americans believe ISIS has declared war on us:
And lastly, regardless of what the conflict eventually calls for, Americans say — as of right now — that they don’t think the Obama administration’s response has been sufficient. Nearly six in 10 (57 percent) say U.S. military action hasn’t been aggressive enough, while 32 percent say it’s about right and 5 percent say it’s been too aggressive.
So even as Americans overwhelmingly approve of what the Obama administration has done, it’s also clear that they want more — and their appetite, on the whole, is pretty favorable to putting boots on the ground in the region for the third time this decade.
They are, for all intents and purposes, ready for a third war.
Of course, the above statement is pretty academic to the American people right now. That’s because, according to the Fox poll, 63 percent think we’re already “at war” with the Islamic State.
And they’d prefer to win it.