WASHINGTON – An increasing number of Americans favor a more aggressive military stance against the Islamic State group amid increasing fear about threats against the United States, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.
Here are some things to know about public opinion on the U.S. response:
MOST WANT MORE MILITARY ACTION
According to the AP-GfK poll, 56 percent of Americans now say the U.S. military response to the Islamic State group has not gone far enough, up from 46 percent who said so in October of 2014. Another 29 percent say the U.S. response has been about right, and 12 percent think it's gone too far. Nearly 8 in 10 Republicans, about half of independents and 4 in 10 Democrats say the U.S. military response has not gone far enough.
The poll shows that Americans are overwhelmingly behind airstrikes against the group in Syria and Iraq, and an increasing number support sending ground troops to the region.
Forty-two percent now favor sending U.S. troops to fight the Islamic State group after just 31 percent said that in January. Another 32 percent in the latest poll are opposed to sending troops, while 22 percent are still on the fence.
Americans are divided along party lines on sending troops, with 6 in 10 Republicans but only about 3 in 10 Democrats or independents supporting that step.
Respondents were more united on airstrikes, with 68 percent supporting, including 84 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of independents.
NOT TRUSTING OBAMA
Fears about the Islamic State group, and about possible threats to United States, are running higher. Seven in 10 people now rate the threat of a terrorist attack inside the United States as extremely or very high, after just half said so at the beginning of the year. And 73 percent rate the threat posed by the Islamic State group as an extremely or very important issue, up from 65 percent just two months ago and the highest that's been in AP-GfK polling conducted since September of 2014.
The poll, with most interviews completed before President Barack Obama's Oval Office address last Sunday, found that he has an uphill battle to allay those concerns. Just 28 percent said Obama has clearly explained what the United States' goals are in fighting the Islamic State, while 68 percent said he has not. Eighty-eight percent of Republicans and 66 percent of independents said the president has not clearly explained the goals, and even among Democrats 51 percent agreed.
Just 4 in 10 approve of Obama's handling of the threat posed by the Islamic State, terrorism or the U.S. role in world affairs more generally. Approval of Obama's handling of terrorism is down 11 points since 51 percent said they approved at the beginning of the year, while approval of his handling of the Islamic State group decreased slightly over the same period.
MORE SEE TROOPS AS LIKELY
Americans also see the possibility of sending ground troops to Iraq and Syria as more likely than they did at the beginning of the year. Thirty-one percent now say it's very or extremely likely, up from 23 percent in January. Forty-three percent think it's moderately likely, and 23 percent think it's not too likely or not likely at all. Democrats, Republicans and independents are all about equally likely to say it's very or extremely probable.
OPPOSITION TO REFUGEES
The poll also shows that 53 percent oppose the Obama administration's plan to allow 10,000 refugees from Syria to enter the United States, with just 23 percent saying they are in favor. Majorities of both Republicans and independents oppose letting in refugees, while Democrats are more likely to be in favor than opposed, 41 percent to 32 percent.
Many Americans consider refugees entering the country to be a risk, the poll shows. Forty-nine percent, including 7 in 10 Republicans but just 3 in 10 Democrats, say there an extremely or somewhat high risk of Syrian refugees committing acts of religious or political violence in the United States.
The AP-GfK Poll of 1,007 adults was conducted online Dec. 3-7, using a sample drawn from GfK's probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.