September 14, 2011

Public Opinion on Air Strikes in Libya Little Changed by Rebels’ Success

44%

Despite the apparent success of NATO-supported rebel troops, public views about the decision to conduct air strikes in Libya remain mixed and have changed little since the U.S. and allies launched military operations there in late March.

A plurality of Americans (44%) say the U.S. and its allies made the right decision to conduct air strikes in Libya, while 33% see this as the wrong decision; 23% offer no opinion, according to a Sept. 1-4 survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Despite the apparent military success of the Libyan rebels at the time of the latest survey, the amount of people saying the air strikes were the right decision declined since the operations began in late March. At that time, 50% supported the air strikes as the right decision while 33% did not, with 13% offering no opinion.

President Obama receives positive marks for his handling of the situation in Libya – 49% approve while 32% disapprove. In April, the public was more evenly divided about Obama’s performance on Libya: 41% approved while 46% disapproved. There are no partisan divisions in the latest survey regarding the decision to conduct the air strikes: 45% of Republicans, 47% of Democrats and 46% of independents say it was the right decision. However, there are wide partisan differences in views of Obama’s handling of the situation in Libya: 64% of Democrats and 50% of independents approve of Obama’s handling of the situation, compared with just 30% of Republicans.

Since the opening weeks of the military operation, interest in Libya has faded. At the beginning of September, as fighting continued and anti-government forces hunted for Muammar Gaddafi, just 17% of people say they followed news about the situation in Libya very closely, according to Pew Research Center’s weekly News Interest Index. Read More