The percentage of Americans who disapprove of how President Obama has handled the Libyan military intervention has risen 15 points in the past month, as people remain confused about what the nation’s goals are in that country, according to two new polls.
President Obama never earned particularly strong public support for his decision to join an international coalition in enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya; barely half of Americans initially supported that decision. But in the past month, as the campaign has dragged on and Gaddafi has remained in power, the support Obama did have has quickly eroded.In a Washington Post/ABC News poll released this week, a 49% plurality of adults said they disapprove of Obama’s handling of Libya, versus 42% who said they approve. While Obama’s approval rating on the issue has has only dipped modestly since March when 45% of Americans rated his work positively, his disapproval rating has leapt 15 points, up from 34%, over that same period.
That high level of disapproval comes despite the fact that a majority of Americans support the intervention overall by a 56% to 40% split. The problem for Obama is that, while a majority back America’s involvement in general, public opinion is split over what the U.S. should be doing there. Among those who sad they supported the intervention, nearly six in ten said the U.S. should go further and remove Gaddafi from power, while
40% said the focus should be only to protect civilians.
A McClatchy-Marist poll out Thursday morning pointed to a similar disconnect. In that poll, 44% of registered voters said they approved of Obama’s handling of the Libyan intervention, versus 46% who said they disapproved.
However, 57% said they didn’t know what America’s goal was in Libya, compared to 42% who said there was a clear goal. And a plurality said they didn’t think even Obama himself had a “clear idea of what he wants the U.S. to do in Libya.” Forty-seven percent of registered voters said Obama had no clear goal in mind, while 46% who said he did.
President Obama has not enjoyed a rally around the flag bump from his decision to launch joint attacks on Libya. His approval rating has fallen markedly in the past month. And while there are many factors at play in that skid, including the weak economy, the ongoing campaign in Libya certainly isn’t helping him.
The Washington Post/ABC News poll was conducted April 14-17 among 1,001 adults nationwide. It has a margin of error of 3.5%. The Marist poll was conducted April 10-14 among 1,084 registered voters, and has a 3.0% margin of error.