WASHINGTON — Only 17 percent of Americans see President Barack Obama as a strong and decisive military leader, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll
taken after the United States and its allies began bombing Libya.
Poll: Obama seen as a cautious leader.
Nearly half of those polled view Obama as a cautious and consultative commander-in-chief and more than a third see him as indecisive in military matters.
The poll also found that 60 percent of Americans support the United States and its allies bombing Libya to impose a no-fly zone to protect civilians from forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.
Seventy-nine percent of those surveyed said the United States and its allies should try to remove Libyan leader Gaddafi, who has ruled the oil-exporting North African country for more than four decades.
This finding was similar to a CNN poll released Tuesday, which found 77 percent of those questioned said it was very important or somewhat important to oust Gaddafi from power.
In the Reuters/Ipsos survey, which was conducted on March 22 from a nationally representative sample of 975 adults, only 7 percent supported deploying ground troops.
Of the 60 percent in favor of the Libya military action, 20 percent strongly supported it and 40 percent somewhat supported it. Twenty-five percent somewhat opposed it and 14 percent were strongly against.
The survey suggested Americans may see Obama, a Democrat, in a very different light from his predecessor, George W. Bush, a Republican who launched the Afghanistan and Iraq wars with some allies but was widely seen as a go-it-alone leader.
Of those polled, 48 percent described Obama's leadership as commander in chief as "cautious and consultative," 36 percent as "indecisive and dithering," and 17 percent as "strong and decisive" in a question that offered only those three choices.
"The data suggest he is perceived to be more consultative in his approach, which may distinguish him in the minds of the American public from his predecessor, George W. Bush, who was not perceived to be," said Ipsos Public Affairs Director Julia Clark, adding that the responses broke along political lines.
In a sign of political division, the top Republican in Congress, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, on Wednesday sharpened his criticism of Obama, saying he was "troubled that U.S. military resources were committed to war without clearly defining . . . what the mission in Libya is and what America's role is in achieving that mission."
Obama secured U.N. Security Council sanction as well as Arab support before beginning the military operation, whose objective is to protect civilians rather than to oust Gaddafi, the latest authoritarian Arab leader to face mass protests.
Demonstrators toppled Tunisian strongman Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali in January and vast street protests in Cairo — ultimately backed by the army —unseated Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February after three decades in power.
Clark said she was surprised by the strong majority — 79 percent —favoring removing Gaddafi from power, particularly at a time when the United States is gradually winding down the war in Iraq and still heavily deployed in Afghanistan.
"That's pretty overwhelming," she said, but noted support for the use of U.S. ground troops in Libya is minimal.
Asked what should be done if the current air strikes fail to restrain Gaddafi, only 7 percent favored sending in U.S. and allied ground troops, 20 percent deploying special forces troops, 25 percent using U.N. peacekeepers and 23 percent advocating increased air strikes. Those surveyed were allowed to select more than one option in response to this question.
Fifteen percent favored none of these options and 29 percent said they did not know what action should be taken.
"Everybody thinks Gaddafi needs to go but there is absolutely no tolerance for the idea of sending in ground troops," Clark said, citing U.S. fatigue with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. "The idea of entering a third conflict like that garners very, very little support."
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