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Poll: Majority of Americans want U.S. to send ground troops to Iraq, Syria to fight ISIS

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IRAQ/SYRIA — With President Barack Obama set to address the nation on ISIS and terrorism Sunday night, a new CNN/ORC Poll finds Americans increasingly displeased with the president’s handling of terrorism and more willing to send U.S. ground troops into the fight against ISIS.

For the first time in CNN/ORC polling, a majority of Americans (53%) say the U.S. should send ground troops to Iraq or Syria to fight ISIS. At the same time, 6-in-10 disapprove of the president’s handling of terrorism and 68% say America’s military response to the terrorist group thus far has not been aggressive enough.

Overall, 60% say the U.S. military action against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria is going badly, that’s actually an improvement since October, when 67% said things were going poorly.

But the improvement here comes entirely among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. Among that group, 57% now say things are going well against ISIS, up from 43% in October, while the share of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who say things are going well has held steady at 19%.

Majorities across party lines feel the U.S. military response to ISIS hasn’t been aggressive enough, including 52% of Democrats, 66% of independents and 90% of Republicans. Still, there are broad partisan gaps on sending ground troops to fight ISIS, on whether the U.S. ought to take a leading role in solving international problems and on whether to allow Syrian refugees to seek asylum in the U.S.

The broadest gap comes on refugees. Overall, 38% of Americans say the U.S. should allow refugees from Syria to seek asylum, 61% say they should not be allowed to seek asylum in the U.S. Among Democrats and Democratic-leaners, 60% think Syrian refugees should be allowed to seek asylum in the U.S., just 17% of Republicans and Republican-leaners agree.

On ground troops, 36% of leaned Democrats think the United States should send ground troops into combat operations against ISIS forces in Iraq or Syria, compared with 69% of leaned Republicans.

While most Americans are reticent for the country to take a leading role on international issues, isolationist sentiment has faded since last fall. More now say the U.S. should take the leading role among all other countries in the world in trying to solve international problems (45% now compared with 39% in September 2014).

Still there’s a broad partisan gap on the question. While most Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say the U.S. should not take the lead role in solving international problems (62%) a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaners take the opposite view (54%).

Disapproval of Obama’s handling of terrorism has increased 9 points since May to 60%, while his overall approval rating has held roughly steady for several months. It currently stands at 45%.

About two-thirds say they disapprove of his handling of ISIS (64%), about the same as in August and May. More say President George W. Bush’s policies are to blame for the current problems in Iraq than think Obama’s policies are to blame, with 42% saying Bush’s policies were at fault, 39% Obama’s.

According to the poll, conducted before the deadly mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, carried out by a couple which may have been inspired by ISIS, most Americans (81%) said they thought that terrorists associated with ISIS who had the resources to launch a major terrorist attack were currently in the U.S., up from 76% who thought so in May and 71% who felt that way in September 2014 around the time the U.S. began airstrikes against ISIS.

A smaller majority, 61%, said they thought it was very or somewhat likely that there would be acts of terrorism in the U.S. over the next several weeks.

The CNN/ORC Poll was conducted by telephone between November 27-December 1 among a random national sample of 1,020 adults. For results among all adults, the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. It is larger for subgroups.

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