Poll finds Americans see fight against ISIS going better

Updated 2:46 PM EDT, Thu May 5, 2016
Washington CNN —  

Americans’ perceptions of the U.S. military’s fight against ISIS are becoming more positive, though a majority still view the effort as going badly, according to a new CNN/ORC Poll.

Still, more Americans are now saying they think the military effort is going well, and fewer feel ground troops are necessary.

Overall, 45% say the military action against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria is going well, up from 38% who said so in early December. That’s the most positive reading since shortly after the military effort began in the fall of 2014.

A majority of 54% say things are going badly, but the share saying it’s going very badly has dipped from a peak of 31% in October of last year to 19% now.

At the same time that American attitudes on the military effort are improving, however, more now see ISIS as a very serious threat. Nine in 10 say the group is at least a somewhat serious threat, and almost three-quarters call it “very serious.” Concerns about ISIS continue to outpace fears of Iran, North Korea, Russia and China by large margins.

The positive shift stems largely from more optimistic reviews among Republicans. In the new poll, 28% say things are going well, up from 18% in December. Democrats and independents are also more likely to see things as going well, but to a smaller degree, with Democrats up 4 points from 57% to 61%, independents up 7 points from 36% to 43%.

While most continue to say the U.S. military response to ISIS has not been aggressive enough, that sentiment is also on the decline, from 68% in December to 57% now. And support for sending ground troops into combat operations against ISIS forces is down: 48% favor it and 48% oppose it, compared with 53% who favored sending ground troops in December.

President Barack Obama announced in April that an additional 250 Special Operations forces will be sent to Syria but said they would not be leading the fight on the ground and would instead assist and train local forces.

For many, the threat of ISIS feels local. Almost 8 in 10 Americans think there are ISIS-associated terrorists in the U.S. who could carry out a major attack, though at 78% that’s down slightly from 81% in a December survey. Republicans are most likely to believe there are terrorists in the United States who could carry out attacks on ISIS’s behalf, with 92% saying it’s so, while 75% of independents and 71% of Democrats agree.

The CNN/ORC Poll was conducted by telephone from April 28 through May 1 among a random national sample of 1,011 adults. Results based on the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.