Americans are clearly behind President Obama in the battle against ISIS. Still, they have a number of worries.
According to a Fox News national poll on terrorism and ISIS, voters think:
- The United States is at war with ISIS, but we don’t have a clear strategy for winning.
- Bombing ISIS is a good start, but it won’t finish the job.
- Obama should send ground troops if that’s what it takes to defeat ISIS - and it probably will be.
- The U.S. military has become less effective under Obama.
- It’s crazy to tell the enemy your plans.
Here are details of the new poll, which was released Wednesday:
The country decisively endorses the military action being taken against ISIS: a large 78-percent majority approves of U.S. airstrikes. That includes more than 7 in 10 independents and Democrats, and more than 8 in 10 Republicans. Despite a small gender gap, most men (82 percent) and women (74 percent) approve.
At the same time, more than twice as many voters believe defeating ISIS will take ground troops as opposed to airstrikes alone (57-24 percent). The number saying it will require combat troops is up six percentage points from 51 percent earlier this month (September 7-9).
Moreover, by a 52-42 percent margin, voters favor adding ground troops if airstrikes aren’t enough to defeat ISIS. Republicans favor it by a wide 66-29 percent margin. Independents are a bit more likely to favor than oppose putting boots on the ground if all else fails (49-43 percent). Democrats oppose it (52-42 percent).
In addition, a 55-percent majority says U.S. action being taken against ISIS hasn’t been aggressive enough. Compare that to 33 percent who think it’s been “about right.” Only 6 percent think it’s “too aggressive.”
When U.S. military action began, the White House sent mixed messages about whether this was properly called a war, or something else. Americans know what they think it is: by two-to-one they say the U.S. and ISIS are at war (62-31 percent). That includes majorities of men and women, veterans and non-veterans, as well as Democrats, independents and Republicans. Those voters who are part of the Tea Party movement are the most likely to call it war: 84 percent.
Despite most Americans agreeing the country is at war, far fewer -- just 26 percent -- believe there is a clear strategy for winning it. Nearly two-thirds say the Obama administration doesn’t have a clear plan (64 percent).
Democrats split: 43 percent say Obama has a clear strategy, while 44 percent disagree. Most Republicans (81 percent) and independents (72 percent) say there’s no plan for defeating ISIS.
By a 15-point margin, more voters think the U.S. military has become less effective (32 percent) rather than more effective (17 percent) under Obama’s leadership. Another 47 percent say there’s no difference.
The assessment is even worse among veterans and those currently serving in the military: 43 percent say less effective since 2008, while 21 percent say more effective. About a third of veterans say it’s about the same now as before (32 percent).
Obama announced in his September 10 prime-time address to the nation on ISIS that no U.S. ground troops would be deployed. House Speaker John Boehner, among others, criticized the president by saying, “I would never tell the enemy what I was willing to do or unwilling to do.”
Voters agree: 54 percent call it “crazy” to announce our strategy to the enemy. On the other side, 34 percent consider it “smart” to let Americans know the scope of our engagement. Sixty percent of veterans say it was “crazy.”
Meanwhile, voters generally say Obama hasn’t been tough enough on radical Muslim extremists during his presidency. Three out of four voters feel that way (74 percent), which is 10 times the number that says he’s been too tough (7 percent).
Sixty percent of Democrats say Obama has not been tough enough on radical Muslims. That increases to 70 percent among independents and a whopping 91 percent among Republicans.
The president’s job ratings remain low for his handling of foreign policy (35 approve-55 disapprove), terrorism (41 approve-53 percent disapprove), Iraq (38 approve-53 disapprove) and Syria (34 approve-54 disapprove).
Still, taking action against ISIS has helped Obama’s ratings. Compared to three weeks ago, approval is up on Syria (+7 points), Iraq (+4 points) and terrorism (+3 points).
Most voters continue to give Obama a thumbs-down for his overall performance: 40 percent approve, while 52 percent disapprove. His worst job rating was earlier this month, when 38 percent approved and 56 percent disapproved (September 7-9).
Large numbers are concerned about ISIS (79 percent) and the Ebola virus (68 percent) striking here at home. Yet by a 16-point spread, more voters are “very” worried about an attack by ISIS (47 percent) than an outbreak of one of the scariest viruses out there (31 percent). The poll was taken before revelations that a hospital patient in Dallas is infected with the virus.
The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 1,049 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from September 28-30, 2014. The full poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.