Politics

In U.S., 53% Oppose Sending Ground Troops to Fight Militants

by Justin McCarthy

Story Highlights

  • Fifty-three percent oppose, while 43% are in favor
  • Majority of GOP, conservatives support use of ground troops

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As the U.S. intensifies its airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, Americans are more likely to oppose (53%) than support (43%) sending U.S. ground troops to these countries to help groups there fight the militants. These figures haven't changed significantly since September 2014 after President Barack Obama launched airstrikes against the Islamic State group and other militant groups.

Trend: Americans' Support for Sending Ground Troops to Iraq and Syria

The latest data are from a Nov. 4-8 Gallup poll, as airstrikes have intensified in Syria after a lull late last month. The Obama administration announced in October that it would deploy 50 special operations troops on the ground in Syria, after Obama said two years ago that he would "not put American boots on the ground" there.

More Americans Oppose Than Support Ground Troops in Syria, Iraq, November 2014

Last year, Gallup found that Americans were more inclined to support the broad concept of U.S. "military action" in Iraq and Syria, with 60% approving. But there was far less support when Americans were asked specifically about sending ground troops, with 40% in favor at that time.

Support for sending ground troops continues to differ by political party and ideology. The issue has been politicized at home, including by Republicans during the presidential debate this week. While several of the candidates -- including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush -- have spoken in favor of sending troops, they have questioned the president's strategy, with some candidates suggesting the deployment was late or did not use enough troops to accomplish the task.

A majority of both Republicans (56%) and conservatives (54%) support sending ground troops to Iraq and Syria to combat Islamic State militants.

Meanwhile, less than half of moderates (41%) and political independents (39%) favor the deployment of ground troops. Liberals (31%) and Democrats (37%) are equally or less likely to support that action.

Support for Sending Ground Troops to Iraq and Syria, by Party and Ideology, November 2015

Bottom Line

The fairly low level of Americans' support for deploying ground troops could be related to their reluctance to engage in another major military commitment in Iraq, or elsewhere for that matter. A majority of Americans continue to describe the Iraq War as a mistake, and Americans have tended to express much more support for past U.S. actions than for recent military involvements -- including in Libya in 2011 after the U.S. conducted airstrikes against the country to enforce a United Nations no-fly zone, and in Syria in 2013 after President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons on Syrian citizens. In the latter case, Russia helped broker a deal with the Syrian government, nullifying the need for U.S. military action.

Despite the changing battle landscape and alterations in Obama's approach over the past year, Americans' views on the use of ground troops have not significantly changed.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 4-8, 2015, with a random sample of 1,021 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how Gallup Poll Social Series works.


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