Seven in Ten Americans Support Continued Airstrikes Against ISIS/ISIL; Split Decision on Sending U.S. Ground Troops

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – October 23, 2014 – A new Harris Poll of American attitudes on the so-called Islamic State, sometimes referred to as ISIS or ISIL, finds that Seven in ten Americans (71%) support continued air strikes against ISIS/ISIL, with strong majorities agreeing on the matter across political lines (79% Republicans, 70% Democrats, 73% Independents). Americans are split, however, on whether to send ground troops to combat ISIS/ISIL, with four in ten both in support of (40%) and in opposition to (41%) such an action.

    • While majorities also support continued air strikes across generational lines, support is noticeably stronger among older cohorts (57% Millennials, 66% Gen Xers, 80% Baby Boomers, 87% Matures).
    • Republicans are more likely to voice support for sending U.S. ground troops (56% support, 30% oppose), while Democrats are more inclined to oppose such an action (49% oppose, 32% support). Independents are also more likely to oppose (44%) rather than support (39%) sending U.S. ground troops, though by an admittedly narrow margin.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll¨ of 2,205 adults surveyed online between October 15 and 20, 2014.

    Over half of Americans (55%) give President Obama negative ratings for the job he has done in handling the situation with ISIS/ISIL over the last several weeks, while 30% give him positive ratings. Meanwhile, Congress – whose most public action in regards to ISIS/ISIL thus far has been deciding not to debate the issue at all until after the midterm elections – receives negative ratings from 68% of Americans and positive ratings among only 13%.

    Crisis of confidence

    Nearly six in ten Americans (57%) are not confident that U.S. policies related to ISIS/ISIL will be successful, while only two in ten American adults (21%) display confidence in current policies. While over half of Democrats (54%) give President Obama positive ratings on his handling of ISIS/ISIL, three in ten (30%) give him negative ratings, as do more than eight in ten Republicans (82%) and six in ten Independents (61%). As for Congress, majorities across the political spectrum give them negative ratings, though negative marks are stronger among Republicans (78%) and Independents (73%) than among Democrats (60%).

    As for confidence that U.S. policies related to ISIS/ISIL will be successful, majorities of Republicans (82%) and Independents (60%) are not confident. Meanwhile, a narrow plurality of Democrats (40%) is not confident, compared to 36% who are confident that U.S. policies will be successful.

    Getting better or worse?

    When asked whether they think the situation with ISIS/ISIL is getting better or worse, or if there has been no real change, a 48% plurality indicates that the situation is getting worse; three in ten (29%) say there has been no real change, while only 5% say the situation is getting better.

    • Looking across political affiliations, two-thirds of Republicans (67%) and half of Independents (50%) say the situation is getting worse, while Democrats are split: just over a third each say that it’s getting worse (36%) and that there has been no real change (35%).
    • From a generational perspective, Matures are the group most likely to say the situation is getting worse, while Millennials are the generation least likely to indicate the same (63% Matures, 55% Baby Boomers, 47% Gen Xers, 38% Millennials).

    Threat assessment

    Of those Americans who have seen, heard, or read anything about ISIS/ISIL (92%), half (51%) believe President Obama has under-stated the threat represented by ISIS/ISIL in recent weeks, while 13% believe he has over-stated it and two in ten (20%) believe he has represented the threat accurately. Pluralities also believe Congress (42% under-stated vs. 21% over-stated and 11% represented accurately) and Secretary of State John Kerry (41% vs. 12% and 17%, respectively) have under-stated the threat.

    These informed Americans are somewhat split where U.S. news media are concerned, with 35% saying they have over-stated the threat and 30% saying they have understated it (16% believe they have represented it accurately).

    The U.S. military receives more credit than any other party for having represented the threat accurately in recent weeks, with one-third of these Americans indicating they have done so (32% vs. 16% over-stated and 27% under-stated).

     

     

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    TABLE 1

    HAVE SEEN, READ OR HEARD ANYTHING ABOUT ISLAMIC STATE/ISIS/ISIL – By Political Party and Generation

    Have you seen, read, or heard anything about armed conflicts and/or the use of U.S. or allied air strikes in Syria and Iraq attaching the so-called Islamic State, sometimes referred to as ISIS or ISIL?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Political Party

    Generation

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Yes

    92

    95

    92

    93

    88

    90

    95

    98

    No

    8

    5

    8

    7

    12

    10

    5

    2

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 2

    PRESIDENT OBAMA AND ISIS/ISIL

    Overall, how would you rate the job President Obama has done in handling ISIS/ISIL over the last several weeks?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Seen/ Heard/ Read Anything

    Political Party

    Generation

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Positive (NET)

    30

    32

    8

    54

    24

    27

    26

    33

    33

    Excellent

    4

    5

    1

    11

    2

    2

    3

    6

    8

    Pretty Good

    25

    27

    7

    44

    23

    25

    23

    27

    26

    Negative (NET)

    55

    59

    82

    30

    61

    48

    57

    58

    60

    Only fair

    26

    29

    25

    24

    32

    28

    29

    24

    22

    Poor

    28

    31

    57

    6

    29

    21

    27

    33

    38

    Not sure

    6

    6

    4

    5

    7

    8

    5

    4

    4

    N/A – I have not followed this story at all

    10

    2

    6

    11

    8

    16

    13

    5

    2

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.


    TABLE 3

    CONGRESS AND ISIS/ISIL

    And how would you rate the job Congress has done in handling ISIS/ISIL over the last several weeks?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Seen/ Heard/ Read Anything

    Political Party

    Generation

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Positive (NET)

    13

    14

    10

    20

    10

    16

    11

    14

    6

    Excellent

    1

    1

    1

    2

    1

    1

     

    2

    Pretty Good

    12

    13

    10

    17

    10

    14

    10

    13

    6

    Negative (NET)

    68

    74

    78

    60

    73

    56

    66

    75

    83

    Only fair

    35

    38

    41

    33

    37

    34

    32

    37

    40

    Poor

    33

    35

    37

    27

    36

    22

    35

    38

    43

    Not sure

    8

    8

    5

    8

    7

    10

    9

    5

    6

    N/A – I have not followed this story at all

    11

    4

    7

    13

    9

    18

    14

    6

    4

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

    indicates a response rate of <0.5%

    — indicates this response was not selected

     

    TABLE 4

    SITUATION GETTING BETTER/WORSE

    Do you think the situation with ISIS/ISIL isÉ?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Seen/ Heard/ Read Anything

    Political Party

    Generation

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Getting better

    5

    6

    2

    9

    5

    7

    3

    5

    4

    Getting worse

    48

    53

    67

    36

    50

    38

    47

    55

    63

    No real change

    29

    31

    22

    35

    30

    30

    30

    28

    26

    Not sure

    8

    8

    4

    9

    8

    11

    8

    6

    5

    N/A – I have not followed this story at all

    10

    2

    5

    11

    8

    15

    12

    6

    2

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

     

    TABLE 5

    CONFIDENCE IN U.S. POLICIES RELATED TO ISIS/ISIL

    How confident are you that U.S. policies related to ISIS/ISIL will be successful?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Seen/ Heard/ Read Anything

    Political Party

    Generation

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Millennials

    (18-37)

    Gen Xers

    (38-49)

    Baby

    Boomers

    (50-68)

    Matures

    (69+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Confident (NET)

    21

    23

    9

    36

    18

    23

    19

    21

    19

    Very confident

    9

    3

    1

    7

    1

    4

    1

    4

    4

    Confident

    18

    20

    8

    29

    17

    19

    18

    18

    15

    Not confident (NET)

    57

    62

    82

    40

    60

    49

    59

    60

    68

    Not that confident

    38

    41

    45

    33

    39

    40

    39

    35

    40

    Not at all confident

    19

    21

    36

    7

    20

    10

    20

    25

    28

    Not sure

    12

    13

    4

    13

    14

    12

    11

    13

    9

    N/A – I have not followed this story at all

    10

    2

    5

    11

    8

    15

    12

    6

    4

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

     

    TABLE 6

    SUPPORT/OPPOSE CONTINUED AIR STRIKES

    Do you support or oppose continued air strikes against ISIS/ISIL?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Seen/ Heard/ Read Anything

    Political Party

    Generation

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers(38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Support (NET)

    71

    77

    79

    70

    73

    57

    66

    80

    87

    Strongly support

    44

    47

    55

    37

    47

    29

    41

    53

    63

    Somewhat support

    27

    29

    24

    33

    26

    29

    26

    28

    24

    Oppose (NET)

    11

    12

    8

    12

    11

    15

    12

    8

    5

    Somewhat oppose

    7

    7

    4

    8

    7

    10

    8

    4

    3

    Strongly oppose

    4

    5

    4

    4

    4

    5

    4

    4

    2

    Not sure

    9

    10

    7

    7

    8

    13

    10

    5

    5

    N/A – I have not followed this story at all

    10

    2

    5

    10

    8

    15

    11

    6

    2

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

     

     

    TABLE 7

    SUPPORT/OPPOSE SENDING GROUND TROOPS

    Do you support or oppose continued sending U.S. ground troops to combat ISIS/ISIL?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Seen/ Heard/ Read Anything

    Political Party

    Generation

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Support (NET)

    40

    43

    56

    32

    39

    38

    36

    44

    41

    Strongly support

    15

    16

    26

    8

    15

    11

    16

    17

    15

    Somewhat support

    25

    27

    31

    24

    24

    26

    20

    27

    25

    Oppose (NET)

    41

    44

    30

    49

    44

    36

    41

    43

    46

    Somewhat oppose

    19

    20

    15

    23

    19

    17

    22

    18

    18

    Strongly oppose

    22

    24

    15

    25

    25

    19

    19

    24

    28

    Not sure

    10

    11

    8

    10

    9

    12

    11

    7

    11

    N/A – I have not followed this story at all

    9

    2

    5

    10

    8

    14

    11

    6

    2

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

     

    TABLE 8a

    PARTIES SEEN AS UNDER- OR OVER-STATING ISIS/ISIL THREAT

    Summary Grid

    To what degree, if at all, do you believe each of the following parties has under- or over-stated the threat represented by ISIS/ISIL in recent weeks?

    Base: Seen, heard or read anything about ISIS/ISIL

    OVER-STATED (NET)

    Greatly over-stated

    Somewhat over-stated

    UNDER-STATED (NET)

    Somewhat under-stated

    Greatly under-stated

    THEY HAVE REPRESENTED THE THREAT ACCURATELY

    Not sure

    U.S. news media

    %

    35

    15

    20

    30

    19

    12

    16

    19

    Congress

    %

    21

    8

    13

    42

    28

    14

    11

    26

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

    %

    17

    7

    11

    15

    11

    5

    24

    43

    U.S. military leaders

    %

    16

    5

    11

    27

    20

    7

    32

    25

    President Barack Obama

    %

    13

    4

    9

    51

    25

    26

    20

    16

    Secretary of State John Kerry

    %

    12

    4

    8

    41

    22

    19

    17

    30

    British Prime Minister David Cameron

    %

    12

    3

    9

    22

    17

    5

    25

    42

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 8b

    PARTIES SEEN AS OVER-STATING ISIS/ISIL THREAT

    Summary Grid

    To what degree, if at all, do you believe each of the following parties has under- or over-stated the threat represented by ISIS/ISIL in recent weeks?

    Base: Seen, heard or read anything about ISIS/ISIL

     

    Total

    Political Party

    Generation

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    U.S. news media

    35

    26

    41

    37

    44

    34

    28

    32

    Congress

    21

    8

    31

    22

    27

    19

    15

    22

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

    17

    10

    20

    23

    20

    15

    16

    17

    U.S. military leaders

    16

    10

    19

    18

    20

    15

    13

    15

    President Barack Obama

    13

    11

    14

    16

    22

    12

    9

    6

    Secretary of State John Kerry

    12

    8

    15

    13

    16

    12

    10

    8

    British Prime Minister David Cameron

    12

    8

    12

    16

    15

    11

    10

    8

     

    TABLE 8c

    PARTIES SEEN AS UNDER-STATING ISIS/ISIL THREAT

    Summary Grid

    To what degree, if at all, do you believe each of the following parties has under- or over-stated the threat represented by ISIS/ISIL in recent weeks?

    Base: Seen, heard or read anything about ISIS/ISIL

     

    Total

    Political Party

    Generation

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    President Barack Obama

    51

    75

    30

    57

    41

    52

    58

    58

    Congress

    42

    60

    30

    43

    36

    39

    48

    48

    Secretary of State John Kerry

    41

    60

    25

    45

    31

    39

    47

    52

    U.S. news media

    30

    48

    20

    30

    25

    29

    33

    37

    U.S. military leaders

    27

    30

    24

    31

    29

    25

    29

    23

    British Prime Minister David Cameron

    22

    23

    21

    23

    21

    24

    22

    21

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

    15

    15

    17

    15

    17

    15

    14

    15

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between October 15 and 20, 2014 among 2,205 (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

    Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

    The Harris Poll #96, October 23, 2014

    By Larry Shannon-Missal, Managing Editor, The Harris Poll