President Barack Obama’s efforts against the Islamic State – as well as his entire foreign policy –is deeply unpopular in this country, a new McClatchy-Marist poll found.
People want Obama and Congress to get tougher. They’re willing to give the president broad authority to act, and nearly two-thirds of them back sending ground troops to fight the extremist group.
They don’t like what they’re seeing now from the White House. Fifty-six percent said they disapproved of Obama’s handling of the Islamic State, also known by the acronym ISIS. The same percentage disapproved of his foreign policy.
“People are dismayed over Obama’s handling of ISIS, but they do want action,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion in New York, which conducted the survey.
Obama went on national TV in September to announce that he was launching airstrikes in Syria and sending hundreds more military advisers to Iraq. Outrages by the group have persisted, notably the beheadings last month of 21 Coptic Egyptians in Libya and the death of Kayla Mueller, an American aid worker held hostage in Syria. The Islamic State claimed Mueller was killed in an airstrike by Jordanian forces.
Last month, the president said he’d ask Congress for new authority for military action in the region. A divided Congress is considering his request. It will find an electorate that wants the United States to act more boldly.
Sixty-two percent of respondents in the McClatchy-Marist poll want their members of Congress to vote for Obama’s proposal to use military force against the Islamic State. Support falls across party and ideological lines: Two-thirds of moderates and conservatives approve; so do 54 percent of liberals.
Backing for American ground troops is also strong. One-fourth of respondents would send a large number of U.S. ground forces, while another 41 percent prefer a limited number. The poll question did not define what was meant by large or limited.
While congressional committees have held hearings on the Obama request, prospects for a vote in the Senate or the House of Representatives are dimming. Many Democrats have been reluctant to give Obama what they regard as a blank check, while Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, are split on how to proceed.
“There’s going to be a foreign policy division in the Republican party,” said Miringoff.
Half of the Republican supporters of the tea party, still a strong force in partisan affairs, back a large number of ground troops, according to the poll. Many congressional Republicans share that view. But support drops to 30 percent among Republicans who don’t back the tea party.
Skepticism about Obama’s national-security strategy came as his approval ratings, as well as those of Congress, inched up last week.
Improved perceptions of the economy helped. The poll’s respondents still see don’t see strong economic progress but they’re a bit less pessimistic. Nearly 6 in 10 still saw the country as moving in the wrong direction, down slightly from December’s 64 percent.
Forty-five percent approved of Obama’s handling of the economy, while half disapproved, a better showing than the 41-55 split of December. Overall, the president’s approval rating is up to 46 percent, matching his October figure and a slight boost from December’s 43 percent.
Congress shared in the marginally upbeat mood. Republicans won control of both chambers in November, and one-third of the poll’s respondents approved of the job the party is doing. Republicans have been on a steady climb, from 22 percent in August to 28 percent in December.
Congressional Democrats’ approval rating is at 30 percent, up slightly from December.