Despite President Obama’s national address on his Libya policy, an increasing percentage of Americans say the military action lacks a clear goal, according to a Pew poll released Tuesday.
The national survey, by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, found that 57% of Americans said the U.S. policy lacked a clear goal, up from 50% who said the same thing a week earlier, before the president formally addressed the nation but while the administration was making its position known.
The latest poll was conducted March 30 to April 3 and involved interviews with 1,507 adults. There is a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for the full sample.
Obama took to the airwaves on March 28 to explain his Libya policy, which includes using U.S. air power as part of an international effort to protect civilians caught between rebels and strongman Moammar Kadafi. Separate from the military action is the long-term policy of the U.S. of using peaceful means to depose Kadafi, whom the West argues has lost any legitimacy to rule.
The Obama administration has emphasized the distinction between international military policy and U.S. policy based on sanctions and other peaceful tactics. Republicans have attacked Obama, arguing that his goals have not been clear and that he acted too slowly in backing military force to help the Libyan rebels.
Despite some questions about the goals, the public’s reaction to the Libyan strikes has remained constant but mixed over the weeks. About 50% in the latest poll said the West made the right decision in using airstrikes to back Libyan rebels while 37% said it was the wrong decision.
That overall consistency masks that the issue has taken on a distinctly partisan tinge in just a week, according to the poll.
Republican opposition to the airstrikes has grown to 41%, up from 29% a week ago. Unsurprisingly, Democratic support for the airstrikes has increased to 59% from 49% in a week.