What Americans Really Think About ISIS (Reason-Rupe Poll, October 2014)


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"There seems to be a sort of collective amnesia problem regarding the Iraq War," says Reason Foundation polling director Emily Ekins.

Ekins is referring to a question contained in the October 2014 Reason-Rupe poll, which found that 51 percent of Americans recall opposing the Iraq invasion in 2003. In reality, Pew found that most Americans—72 percent—supported the war at the time of the invasion. Ekins says its fairly common to find such discrepancies in public opinion polling. People tend to want to say they supported the winner and opposed the loser.

"And this tells us something about how Americans view the Iraq War," says Ekins.

Reason TV questioned a handful of passersby in Venice, California, to illustrate some Americans' attitudes toward the current military intervention against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Here are some key findings from the October poll:

Air strikes are popular.

Some 66 percent of Americans favor airstrikes to combat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. This was a fairly consistent finding across age groups and partisans, with one glaring exception: Young people. Fifty-one percent of respondents younger than 30 oppose airstrikes.

Ground troops are unpopular.

Most Americans oppose sending ground troops to combat ISIS. Only 43 percent favor John McCain and Lindsey Graham's preferred solution.

Congress is shirking its duty when it comes to foreign policy in the minds of most Americans.

A whopping 78 percent of Americans believe Congress should return from recess to vote one way or another on an authorization for the use of military force against ISIS. Most people think Congress hasn't done so because its members don't want to put a vote on the official record. 

Americans are increasingly concerned about the potential unintended consequences of intervention.

Fifty-five percent of Americans oppose the United States arming Syrian rebels, and 78 percent believe there is a chance such weapons would eventually be used against the U.S.

"Americans are going to appreciate politicians who can demonstrate an ability to be deliberative, but also strong, in how they make foreign policy decisions," says Ekins.

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Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Camera by Paul Detrick. Music by Chris Zabriskie.