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Americans Evenly Split on Sending Troops to Fight Islamic State

Story Highlights

  • As many in U.S. favor sending ground troops as are opposed
  • Prior to now, a majority of Americans opposed sending ground troops
  • Support is up among Republicans and independents, not Democrats

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Since the Islamic State terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut, Americans' reaction to sending U.S. ground troops to assist groups fighting Islamic militants has shifted from majority opposition to an even divide. Forty-seven percent of Americans now favor committing U.S. ground troops to Iraq and Syria for this purpose, while 46% are opposed. In early November, opponents surpassed supporters by 10 percentage points.

Americans' Support for Sending Ground Troops to Iraq and Syria

The latest survey was conducted a little over a week after the Islamic State group killed nearly 200 civilians in attacks in Paris and Beirut, and following reports that Islamic militants were responsible for bombing a Russian passenger jet over Egypt on Oct. 31, killing all 224 on board. In response to these acts of terrorism, Russia and France have intensified their airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria, and French President Francois Hollande is attempting to assemble a global coalition to defeat the militant group.

Domestically, President Barack Obama recently announced that while the U.S. fight against the Islamic State group will intensify, his position against committing U.S. ground troops hasn't changed. At the same time, several Republican presidential candidates, including Jeb Bush and Donald Trump, have advocated for significant troop deployment.

Americans Who Favor Sending Ground Troops

In line with these divergent positions, Republicans' support for committing U.S. troops has increased by close to 10 percentage points since early November, to 65% -- while Democrats' support is unchanged at 37%. Independents' support is up slightly to 44%.

Americans' View of Sending Ground Troops to Iraq and Syria, by Party ID

Even as Americans opposed sending U.S. ground troops to fight the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria in 2014, Gallup polling from a year ago showed 60% broadly in favor of U.S. "military action" against the group. That figure was slightly higher than the percentage supporting U.S. military action against Libya in 2011, but below percentages supporting U.S. military action in Iraq in 2003 and in Afghanistan in 2001.

Bottom Line

Although a majority of Americans have opposed sending ground troops to fight Islamic militants for the past year, as many are now in favor as are opposed, largely driven by an increase in support among Republicans. This follows several violent attacks that, experts say, mean the Islamic State group is no longer just a regional threat in the Middle East. While the United States' recent experience in Afghanistan and Iraq may be causing many to recoil from another U.S. military venture in the Middle East, that could change if future attacks hit closer to home.

These data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 22-23, 2015, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 1,017 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.

Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Daily works.

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