As Barack Obama prepares to send a small number of American troops into Syria to fight ISIS, the American public has grown even more unhappy with his policies to fight the terrorist state. In the latest poll from the Associated Press, Americans are growing more disenchanted with Obama’s foreign policy in general, but it’s his approach to the ISIS threat that has become most acute:
Americans are souring on President Barack Obama’s approach to fighting the Islamic State, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll that also found deep pessimism about U.S. prospects for success in Afghanistan and uncertainty about Obama’s plan to leave thousands of troops there when he leaves office.
More than 6 in 10 now reject Obama’s handling of the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, where Obama has been escalating the U.S. military’s involvement in a bid to break a vexing stalemate. Support for his approach has followed a downward trajectory since the U.S. formed its coalition to fight the group in late 2014. Last September, Americans were roughly split, yet disapproval has jumped 8 percentage points just since January.
Those concerns mirror broader trepidation about Obama’s management of foreign policy, which garnered approval from just 40 percent of Americans in the AP-GfK poll. They come as Obama struggles to demonstrate progress advancing U.S. interests in the Middle East, where Obama hoped to disentangle the U.S. military after a decade-plus of war but will likely leave three military conflicts ongoing when his presidency ends in 2017.
The poll was conducted before Obama announced the deployment of 50 Special Operations forces, but it’s not likely to resolve the issues broached in this poll. The AP analysis points out that Obama’s move will be seen as a betrayal of his promise to stay out of Syria by many, and others will scoff at the lack of resources Obama has applied to fight ISIS. “”If we’re going to be committed to the fight,” said one Republican in Brooklyn, “he needs to commit seriously and stop playing patty-cake.”
Otherwise, the poll shows a fairly stable — and poor — showing for Obama. His approval rate is 46/54, in the range of where it has been for all of 2015. He remains underwater in every issue surveyed by the AP, but note the drop when it comes to ISIS:
- Economy: 46/52, was 42/56 in July
- Foreign policy: 40/58, was 39/59 in July
- Gun laws: 37/61, was 40/58 in December 2013
- Afghanistan: 39/59, was 38/60 in July
- ISIS: 38/61, was 44/53 in February
Bear in mind that the sample here is D+7 without leaners, and D+4 with leaners, so it’s not an unusually tilted poll. That gap manifests itself on trust in parties on most issues, except one in particular:
- Economy: 29/24 Dems
- Immigration: 29/25 Dems
- Protecting the country: 29/20 GOP
For ISIS, it’s 26/20 GOP, and in Afghanistan it’s all but a tie at 22/21 GOP. Those numbers have consequences in 2016. How can voters trust Hillary Clinton, who ran Obama’s foreign policy in his first term, to conduct any better foreign policy than that being used now? Foreign policy may not be a huge issue in the presidential election — the economy will drive most of the vote — but it’s also Hillary’s claimed area of expertise. She may have a big Obama hangover once she shakes off Bernie Sanders.