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

A nearly 2-to-1 majority gives President Obama negative ratings on his handling of the situation; Congress comes across even worse, with a 5-to-1 majority giving them negative ratings

NEW YORK, Oct. 23, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- 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.

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  • 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. (Full results, including data tables, available here)

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).

To see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

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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

About The Harris Poll®

Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. For more information, or to see other recent polls, visit the Harris Poll News Room.

Press Contact:
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The Harris Poll
[email protected]

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