More than 60% of those polled expressed concern over Obama's handling of the threat posed by IS in Syria and Iraq. Fewer people now support the president in this than when the US-led coalition to fight IS was launched in late 2014. Since January, disapproval over White House policies in Syria has increased by 8% over last September, when Americans were roughly split on the issue.
More broadly, only 40% of Americans approve of Obama's general foreign policy approach, according to the poll, which questioned just over 1000 people. The numbers, disappointing for the White House, come as Obama struggles to demonstrate progress pushing US interests in the Middle East; US military presence in the region has been on the rise for a long time, and despite pledges to disentangle the country from more than a decade of war, it seems likely Obama will leave office with three ongoing military conflicts.
Criticism comes from both sides of the political aisle.
Donald Hammond, a retired police officer and Republican from Brooklyn, Ohio said IS militants don't take Obama seriously. "ISIS is literally laughing at our president," Hammond said. He accused Obama of tying the military's hands out of concern about potential US casualties. "If we're going to be committed to the fight, he needs to commit seriously and stop playing patty-cake."
"I feel concerned that we're getting pulled into that quagmire that just seems to never end," said 54-year old Democrat Patty Watson from Portland, Oregon. She expressed fear that the US leader follows a strategy in which the US is "the sole force of that resolution," the Associated Press reported.
The AP-GfK poll was conducted prior to Obama's announcement last week to send nearly 50 US special operation forces to northern Syria. But, the AP reported, it coincides with more general fears, increased this year after Obama increased the number of troops in Iraq and reconsidered his approach to fighting IS, including an unpopular decision to train "moderate" Syrian rebels, an attempt that failed miserably.
- Yes, any kind of 'special forces' counts as 'boots on the ground'93.6% (4427)
- No, as these troops will not play a direct combat role6.4% (305)
Obama announced in October that Washington will keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan throughout most of 2016, and will maintain 5,500 troops in the country after 2016, rather than fully withdrawing all US forces from the country by next year, as originally planned.
Jamie Atkins, 40, a Democrat from Easley, South Carolina, said he doubts Obama's overall approach to foreign affairs. But on Afghanistan, the president's failures were clear.
"I disapprove with him sending the troops to Afghanistan," said Atkins, a disabled former construction worker. "They put their lives in danger, and some are killed in the line of duty."
The AP-GfK Poll of 1,027 adults was conducted online Oct. 15-19, using a sample drawn from GfK's probability-based KnowledgePanel, designed to represent the US population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents was plus or minus 3.3 %.