Poll Finds Criticism of Obama on Iraq Despite Agreement on Ground Forces

By Gary Langer

Jun 24, 2014 7:00am

More Americans disapprove than approve of Barack Obama’s response to the situation in Iraq, even while the public broadly agrees with his decision not to send U.S. combat forces there.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll marks the difficulties Obama faces in crafting a popular response to the deepening crisis. Two-thirds oppose sending ground troops to fight the Sunni insurgents in Iraq, a step the president himself ruled out last week. Regardless, just 42 percent approve of the way he’s handling the situation, while 52 percent disapprove.

The public divides evenly on another potential option, the use of air strikes.

See PDF with full results, charts and tables here.

Highlighting a disconnect between policy preferences and presidential approval, “strong” disapprovers of the way Obama is handling the situation outnumber strong approvers by a 2-1 margin, yet strong opposition to sending troops exceeds strong support by 3-1.

A variety of related views may inform these attitudes. Steadily since late 2004, majorities of Americans have said that, given its costs vs. its benefits, the war in Iraq was not worth fighting. And when Obama moved to withdraw all U.S. forces in 2011, he enjoyed 78 percent support. Clearly it’s a conflict the public is reluctant to revisit.

Another factor is the high level of partisanship in Obama’s ratings. Seventy-three percent of Democrats approve of his handling of the crisis, while 84 percent of Republicans and 54 percent of independents disapprove. Partisanship remains, but much less starkly, in terms of air strikes (more popular among Republicans), and fades further on sending ground troops. Indeed, there’s no relationship at all between views on sending troops and approval of Obama’s work on the issue.

Ideology plays a similar role to partisanship in this poll, produced for ABC by  Langer Research Associates. Conservatives are much more apt than moderates or liberals to criticize Obama’s handling of the situation, and somewhat more likely to favor air strikes, but with very little ideological difference in views on sending combat troops.

Among other groups, women and young adults are less apt than men and those 30 and up to support air strikes; those gaps essentially disappear when it comes to sending combat troops. For their part, views of Obama’s handling of the situation reflect some customary differences in his ratings, with disapproval higher among men, whites and older adults.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cell phone June 18-22, 2014, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,009 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points. The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y.

Analysis by Gary Langer and Gregory Holyk.

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