Politics

Americans Approve of Military Action Against Libya, 47% to 37%

Support is lower than for other recent U.S. military actions

PRINCETON, NJ -- A Gallup poll conducted Monday finds more Americans approving than disapproving of the military action against Libya by the United States and other countries.

March 2011: Next, we have a question about the current military action by the United States and other countries against Libya. Do you approve or disapprove of the current U.S. military actions against Libya?

The March 21 poll was conducted just days after the United States joined other countries in conducting airstrikes against Libya to enforce a United Nations no-fly zone. The U.N. passed a resolution calling for a no-fly zone in response to reports that Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi had attacked Libyan forces opposed to his government.

The 47% of Americans approving of the action against Libya is lower than what Gallup has found when asking about approval of other U.S. military campaigns in the past four decades.

Americans showed the highest level of support for the 2001 military action in Afghanistan that was a response to the 9/11 terror attacks. Americans also widely supported U.S. airstrikes against Iraq in 1993 and the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Support for the current involvement in Libya is also much lower than support for U.S. airstrikes against Libya in 1986 in response to the Libyan bombing of a German nightclub that killed two American servicemen.

Approval of Prior U.S. Military Actions

While Gallup did not ask an approve/disapprove question about the 1991 Persian Gulf War, support for that action was also high, based on other question wordings.

Though approval of the current actions against Libya is lower than that for other U.S. military efforts, the level of disapproval is lower than Gallup measured for the Haiti and Kosovo/Balkan situations, and similar to that for Grenada.

Republicans, Democrats in General Agreement

Republicans and Democrats take opposing viewpoints on most issues, but they are in general agreement on Libya. Slim majorities of both groups approve of the action. Independents are the least approving, at 38%.

Approve/Disapprove of U.S. Military Action Against Libya, by Political Party

The lack of a significant Republican-Democratic difference could be the net result of Republicans' inclination to support military action and Democrats' inclination to support the Obama administration's policies. Gallup found similar dynamics at play during the Vietnam and Korean Wars.

More generally, no demographic subgroup shows particularly strong support for the current U.S. military action against Libya, with postgraduates' (60%) and Republicans' support the highest among major subgroups.

Implications

Americans are more likely to favor than oppose the current military action against Libya, though they favor it to a lesser extent than prior U.S. military campaigns. The poll did not ask Americans' specific reasons for approving or disapproving of the efforts against Libya, so the reasons for their subdued support are not clear.

In the past, the public's views on military actions have changed in response to the progress or lack of progress of those ventures. Usually, the longer the United States is involved in a military operation, such as the recent war in Iraq, the more support drops.

The United States says it is planning to reduce its role in enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya, allowing European countries to take the lead. However, the length of the overall commitment in Libya is uncertain, depending on what transpires there.

Survey Methods


Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 21, 2011, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,010 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each daily sample includes a minimum quota of 200 cell phone respondents and 800 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, cell phone-only status, cell phone-mostly status, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

Question Wordings for Data on Approval of Prior U.S. Military Actions

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