Poll: Americans Want Congress to Vote on Military Force Before Midterms, Say an Ebola Outbreak Is Likely and Kids Should Be Required to Get Vaccinations

Reason-Rupe finds the public wants Congress to return to DC to vote on ISIS now and is split between raising taxes and cutting spending to pay for the latest war


Nearly four out of five Americans, 78 percent, say Congress should return to Capitol Hill before the November elections to hold a vote on the authorization for use of military force against Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq, the latest Reason-Rupe national telephone poll finds.  Just 16 percent of Americans say Congress should not return to Washington before November to hold a vote on military action in Syria and Iraq.

When asked why Congress didn't vote on the authorization of military force before leaving for recess, 63 percent of Americans say members of Congress don't want to put their vote on the official record, 15 percent say Congress doesn't believe President Obama needs its authorization for military action, and 8 percent feel Congress simply didn't have enough time to hold the vote.

Two-thirds, 66 percent, of Americans tell Reason-Rupe they support the US airstrikes against Islamic State (ISIS) fighters in Syria and Iraq.  Fifty-eight percent of Americans believe US ground troops would be necessary to defeat ISIS but only 43 percent currently support sending US ground troops to fight in Syria and Iraq, while 52 percent oppose.

There is even less support for arming Syrian rebels — 35 percent of Americans favor, and 55 percent oppose supplying Syrian rebels with US weapons to fight ISIS.  That opposition could stem from the fear that those weapons will eventually be used against Americans. The public estimates there is a 78 percent chance that weapons provided to Syrian rebels will ultimately be used against America or its allies.

Paying for the War Against ISIS

When asked, open-ended, how long they expect the current military action against ISIS to last, the median answer was two years.

When it comes to paying for the war against ISIS, the public is split between raising taxes and cutting spending. To fund the military action, 42 percent of Americans say they'd raise taxes — 34 percent would increase taxes only on the wealthy and another 8 percent would raise taxes on everyone.  Nearly the same amount, 39 percent, favor cutting spending — 35 percent want to cut general federal spending and an additional 4 percent want to cut entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. Six percent of Americans prefer borrowing money to pay for the war. 

Reason-Rupe asked Americans what federal spending they'd cut first to pay for the war against ISIS — 19 percent would start with cuts to social safety net programs like food stamps and unemployment insurance; 17 percent would reduce infrastructure and transportation spending; 9 percent would cut science and medical research; 7 percent would cut Social Security or Medicare; 3 percent would decrease education spending; and 2 percent would cut veterans programs. Twenty-three percent selected a variety of minor programs not presented as options and 16 percent said they didn't know which program they'd cut.

Comparing Bush and Obama and Revisionist History on the Iraq War

While the Iraq war was very popular when it was launched, a majority of Americans, 51 percent, now say they recall being opposed to the war in 2003. Just 39 percent say they supported the war in Iraq when it started in 2003. By comparison, a March 2003 national Pew survey found that 72 percent supported the US war in Iraq.

Eighty-three percent of Americans think the war in Iraq has either increased the threat of terrorism (38 percent) or didn't make a difference (45 percent) on the amount of terrorism, while 14 percent believe the war in Iraq reduced the threat of terrorism.

Reason-Rupe finds the number of Americans who say President Obama is doing a better job than President George W. Bush on foreign policy increased slightly from 32 percent in September 2013 to 35 percent in October 2014. One-third of Americans say Obama is doing a worse job than his predecessor and 28 percent say he is doing no better or worse. 

Approval Ratings for President Obama, Congress

Thirty-eight percent of Americans approve of the way President Obama is handling foreign policy, 51 percent disapprove.

Overall, 43 percent of Americans approve of the job President Obama is doing, while 50 percent disapprove.

Congress' approval rating is 19 percent, with 73 percent disapproving.

Midterm Elections

Forty-two percent of registered voters say they'll vote for the Democratic congressional candidate in their district, while 33 percent say they'll vote for the Republican candidate and 13 percent suggest they'll vote for a third party or independent candidate.

About half of voters, 53 percent, are satisfied with the US House and US Senate candidates they have to choose from. That satisfaction grows to 57 percent for state-level candidates and 63 percent for candidates running for local offices.  

Ebola and Vaccinations

Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, died on Wednesday.  In August 2014, 40 percent of Americans thought an Ebola outbreak in the United States was likely. Now, 62 percent of Americans tell Reason-Rupe an Ebola outbreak in a US city is likely, while 36 percent say an outbreak in the US is not likely. Twenty-three percent of the public believes an Ebola outbreak in a US city is "very likely" and 39 percent say it is "somewhat likely." 

Six in 10 Americans believe all children should be required to receive vaccinations for diseases like mumps and measles, while 37 percent feel parents should be able to refuse vaccinations.  Just over half, 52 percent, of Americans, say unvaccinated children should not be allowed to attend public schools, 44 percent think children who haven't been vaccinated should be allowed in schools.

Mandatory Minimums and Voting Rights for Drug Offenders

Nearly eight in 10 Americans, 77 percent, favor eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. And 73 percent favor restoring voting rights for nonviolent drug offenders who have served their sentences.

Police Favorability, Misconduct

Seventy-two percent of Americans have a favorable view of the police, down from 78 percent in April 2014.  With several police incidents in the news recently, 47 percent of Americans say police officers are using excessive force more than they have in the past, while 43 percent say the number of excessive force cases aren't going up or down.

When officers are guilty of misconduct, 50 percent of Americans believe they are held accountable, while 45 percent do not believe police officers are held accountable for their misconduct. 

Seven in 10 Americans oppose the use of racial profiling by police officers. Forty-five percent of Americans believe the criminal justice system treats whites, African-Americans and Hispanics equally, while 44 percent think the criminal system treats whites more fairly than it treats blacks and Hispanics.

About the Reason-Rupe Poll

The Reason-Rupe poll interviewed 1,004 adults on mobile (503) and landline (501) phones from October 1-6, 2014. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. Princeton Survey Research Associates International executed the nationwide survey.