Majority of Americans Want U.S. Ground Troops to Fight Islamic State

Democrats and Republicans think military response has not been aggressive enough

President Obama calls on the Senate to pass the USA Freedom Act while speaking to reporters in May 2015 / AP

A majority of Americans want the United States to send ground troops into Iraq and Syria to fight the Islamic State in the wake of the deadly attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.

CNN/ORC poll released Sunday night just ahead of President Obama’s nationally televised address on terrorism found that 53 percent of Americans would support the Pentagon sending ground troops into combat operations against the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL or ISIS) in the Middle East. This marked the first time in the history of CNN/ORC polling that a majority of Americans have backed such force.

President Obama has insisted that he will not send U.S. combat troops to fight the terrorist group.

Moreover, 64 percent of Americans disapprove of the way in which Obama is handling IS, including 70 percent of independents and 93 percent of Republicans. This represents the president’s highest ever disapproval rating on the issue of the terror group. Only one-third of Americans approve of what Obama is doing to cripple IS.

In general, 60 percent of Americans say that U.S. military action against the Islamic State is going poorly, with 25 percent agreeing it is going "very badly." Nearly seven in 10 Americans do not believe that the U.S. military response to IS has been aggressive enough, including a majority of Democrats.

Only five percent of Americans believe that the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State is going very well.

Americans largely forecast that the Islamic State will launch terror attacks in the United States in the near future. Eighty-one percent believed terrorists associated with IS are currently inside the U.S. and have the resources to launch a significant attack, and 61 percent predict that acts of terrorism are likely to occur inside the U.S. in coming weeks.

The poll was conducted in the days before Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik launch a gun attack that killed 14 people at a holiday party in San Bernardino last Wednesday. The Islamic State has said that both attackers, now deceased, were supporters. The FBI is currently investigating the shooting as an act of terrorism.

IS also claimed responsibility for the Nov. 13 suicide bombings and shootings in Paris that killed 130 people there, after which the terrorist group threatened attacks on U.S. cities and other countries.

Though the Obama administration does not believe that substantially more U.S. troops are the "answer" to defeating IS, the Pentagon is sending small special operations forces to Syria and Iraq to support groups fighting the Islamic State. These forces will conduct raids and gather intelligence, among other things.

A confidential intelligence report commissioned by the White House and sent to Obama in the wake of the Paris attacks concluded that IS could spread worldwide if the terrorists do not lose large amounts of territory in the Middle East.