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War on Terror Confidence Falls Even Further

Monday, January 26, 2015

Belief that the United States is winning the War on Terror has fallen to yet another low, with over half of voters still convinced that America’s leaders are too eager to use the nation’s military forces.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that only 23% of Likely U.S. Voters now believe the United States and its allies are winning the War on Terror, the lowest finding in nearly 11 years of regular tracking.That’s down from 25% in October and 39% a year ago at this time.

This figure hit a high of 62% in February 2009 just after President Obama’s inauguration, then steadily deteriorated until the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 when it rebounded into the 50s. Thirty-three percent (33%) think the terrorists are winning that war, down slightly from October. Thirty-six percent (36%) say neither side is winning. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Many Americans worry that an attack like the one recently in Paris on those critical of Islam could take place in this country in the near future. Even before that incident, 86% of voters in this country said radical Islamic terrorism is a threat to the United States.

Fifty-one percent (51%) of voters believe the U.S. military is overstretched, but 33% think America’s armed forces can adequately handle the number of missions it has. This compares to 55% and 31% respectively last September. Sixteen percent (16%) are undecided.

Obama recently put an official end to the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan, but most voters support his decision to keep several thousand troops there until 2016 for training and counterterrorism purposes.  

As America’s longest-running war comes to a close, 53% of voters say our political leaders send the nation’s soldiers into harm’s way too often, although that’s down from a high of 60% last May. Just 10% say our leaders don’t use the military enough. Twenty-five percent (25%) think the balance is about right, but 11% more are not sure.

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The survey of 800 Likely Voters was conducted on January 23-24, 2015 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

In January of last year, 39% of voters said the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have increased the threat of radical Islamic terrorism within the United States. Just 23% believed the wars have reduced that threat.

Seventy-one percent (71%) agree with the late Ronald Reagan that “the United States should not commit its forces to military action overseas unless the cause is vital to our national interest.” Just 14% disagree, and 15% are undecided. Views on this question have changed little since we first asked it three years ago.

Similarly, 72% say the United States should not be the world’s policeman, consistent with findings since 2009. Seventeen percent (17%) believe America should be the global cop, up slightly from past surveys. Eleven percent (11%) are not sure.

Men and those 40 and over are only slightly more confident than women and younger voters that the United States and its allies are winning the War on Terror.

Thirty-two percent (32%) of Democrats think America is winning, compared to 16% of Republicans and 21% of voters not affiliated with either major party.

Most GOP and unaffiliated voters think the U.S. military is overstretched. Democrats are more closely divided. But Republicans feel more strongly than the others that America should be the world’s policeman and are less likely to think our leaders send our soldiers into harm’s way too often.

Still, sizable majorities in all three groups say the United States should not commit its forces to military action overseas unless the cause is vital to our national interest.

Voters who think the U.S. military is overstretched feel much more strongly that America is losing and the terrorists are winning the War on Terror.

Sixty-seven percent (67%) of all voters believe U.S. military strategy should be focused narrowly on defending America and its interests. Only 26% now say the military’s strategy should be the maintenance of worldwide stability and peace

Voters for years have given the U.S. military overwhelmingly positive marks for the job it is doing.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only. 

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