CNN Poll: Americans say yes to no fly zone, no to ground troops
March 14th, 2011
12:45 PM ET
12 years ago

CNN Poll: Americans say yes to no fly zone, no to ground troops

Washington (CNN) - A majority of Americans would support a move by the United States and other allies to establish a no fly zone in Libya, according to a new national poll.

But a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey also indicates that most of the public would oppose a move to send ground troops to fight in the civil war in the north African nation. The poll, released Monday, also suggests Americans are divided on how President Barack Obama is handling the crisis.

Full results (pdf)

Fifty-six percent of Americans say they would favor the U.S. and other allied countries establishing a "no-fly zone" in Libya, with four in ten opposed. The move would allow U.S. aircraft or missiles to shoot down

Libyan airplanes and attack Libyan airbases in order prevent the country's embattled leader, Moammar Gadhafi, from using his air force to attack rebel troops.

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi have been fighting to recapture towns from the rebels since an uprising began last month. Pleading for international help as they continue to lose ground to pro-Gadhafi forces, rebels are asking for a no-fly zone that would theoretically thwart airstrikes.

The Arab League voted Saturday to back a no-fly zone "to protect the civilian population" in Libya. The U.S. and other western powers have said any action by the international community, including a no-fly zone, would have to have regional support and a clear mandate from the United Nations.

According to the poll, only 32 percent of Americans would support U.S. air strikes in Libya without an attempt to establish a "no-fly zone," with 62 percent opposed.

The survey indicates there is vast opposition to injecting U.S. ground troops into the conflict, with 76 percent saying they would oppose such a move. But 53 percent say they would favor Washington and other countries sending arms and supplies to the Libyan forces fighting to remove Gadhafi from power.

"The no-fly zone wins support from Democrats and Republicans alike, with virtually no partisan differences. That's rare in politics these days," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "A gender gap does exist though, which is typical for questions on military action. More than sixty percent of men favor a no-fly zone, compared to 50 percent of women."

The survey indicates that Gadhafi himself is extremely unpopular, with more than seven in ten Americans holding an unfavorable view of the Libyan leader.

"But he is apparently no Saddam Hussein," adds Holland. "In 2002, six in ten said that removing Saddam from power in Iraq was a very important goal for the U.S.; today only one in four think that it is very important for the U.S. to remove Gadhafi from power."

According to the poll, three-quarters of Americans say that international organizations or allied countries should take the lead role on Libya, with only 23 percent saying the U.S. should be in the driver's seat when it comes to Libya.

Forty-five percent of those questioned say they approve of how the president's handling the crisis, with four in ten saying they disapprove of how Obama's dealing with the situation.

"Fifteen percent of Americans don't have an opinion on Obama's policies on Libya - that's about four to five times higher than the "don't know" response when CNN has asked Americans to evaluate Obama on nearly all major issues," says Holland.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted March 11-13, with 1,023 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report

Filed under: Libya • President Obama
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Biggge

    I am happy about the way Obama is handling the stituation, I like the way he is taking his time and checking on things before he takes action. No need to put American soldiers in harms way without going over every solution possible, we did this once before in the Middle East remember.. Obama deflect the haters and do what U feel is right.....Also nice job on getting the Americans out of Libya and letting international organizations or allied countries take the lead....

    March 14, 2011 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  2. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    A no-fly zone then what. This could cause the Junta and other African insurgents to continue widespread slaughter more innocent people who don't live in Libya. Americans need to pay attention to not just what's going on in Libya but in the outlying regions of Africa. Read about it.

    March 14, 2011 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  3. K Bob

    Did the poll ask, or educate those questioned, anything about how much money and effort goes into creating a
    "no-fly zone" before asking whether those questioned would support it or not?

    March 14, 2011 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  4. J. Olver

    The Saudi's have a dandy air force, we sold it to them. If Arabs want a no fly zone let them implement it. Our lnation already has too many irons in that particular fire.

    March 14, 2011 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  5. Michael

    If the Arab world supports a no-fly zone in Libya, then THEY should be the countries providing said air support. Were the US to do so, it would be tantamount to an act of war and would just continue the bad feelings that the US has instigated and endured since Dubya's illigal invasion of Iraq.

    March 14, 2011 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  6. Monster Zero

    Maybe Obama could just send Ghaddafi a copy of his books to bore him to death with moments of extreme nausea on every page to assure an agonizing slow death...

    March 14, 2011 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  7. DemoCommunists for a Better Way - Bankruptcy

    Don't expect anything resembling leadership from the fool in the Whitehouse on a no-fly zone. Obama is all talk and no stick and the world knows it.

    March 14, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  8. informed voter

    Military intervention is not something Americans get to "vote" on. That is the job of our elected officials. There is a reason why we have an electoral college instead of a direct vote for President. The founding fathers did not trust in the judgement of America's citizenry. Judging by some of the morons who have won elected office (Palin and Bachmann come to mind), I am grateful our founding fathers realized that many voters are ignorant, and should not be trusted to make intelligent choices for our nation.

    March 14, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  9. Laverne

    Americans don't understand that a no fly zone will 99% likely end up with ground troops and then a right out war. It is not a simple solution to this, but whatever we do, we MUST not go it alone this time.

    March 14, 2011 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  10. g

    in this poll you only talked with 1035 people. and you say most Americans agree with a no fly zone. I'll tell you what most Americans want and that is to stay out of Libya and start taking care of our own people. Help get jobs back in this country and get people off the streets. American doesn't need to keep wasting money in other countries wew need to put it in our own and get back on our feet.

    March 14, 2011 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  11. rs

    Mute point as long as we are mired in Iraq and Afghanistan's costly and (now) pointless Bush adventures.

    March 14, 2011 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  12. Pretzel Logic

    And this will be paid for how, exactly? And by whom? Starting another armed conflict against a predominantly Muslim country is NOT a good idea. Obama is doing the right thing by treading lightly. Any outward display of support will embolden both Gadhafi's forces and Muslim extremists.

    March 14, 2011 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  13. gt

    no more american boys need to die... get our troops home from afganistan .iraq, germany , japan ....

    March 14, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  14. jules sand-perkins

    I would support a no-fly zone that began with a shock-and-awe, surgical-guillotine amputation of Gadhafi's air force, family, personal tent, and camel.

    March 14, 2011 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  15. Name

    I don't think the American public is qualified to make the decision to attack another country.

    March 14, 2011 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  16. Ron

    And do these 56% that approve of a "no fly zone" know that the US has been involved in Iraq for 20+ years now because someone had the "brilliant" idea to set up a "no fly zone" there as well?

    March 14, 2011 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  17. Tim

    See Barack, it's ok to make a decision. People will back you. Go ahead, no reason to be timid any longer.

    March 14, 2011 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  18. DAVE

    to do a no fly zone would cost just about the amount of money that washington is debating in cuts which if not settled could shut down the goverment. the weapons that would be used cost millions of dollars. even if gadhafi can't fly doesn't mean he will loose. than what? when do we stop the no fly zone or what else would we do to help the loosing side? why aren't other muslim nations flying jets over libya? why aren't other muslim nations puting boots on the ground to stop the killing? muslims pray 3 times a day and alot of them ask god to destroy this country! muslims are kiling muslims and i find it very hard to care about.

    March 14, 2011 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  19. Chas in Iowa

    As usual we as Americans will wait until ten years after he has killed his own citizens to go after him because it may have a negative financial impact right now.
    This is exactly why the USA has lost it's standing in the world.
    Our moral compass it attached to our billfolds.

    March 14, 2011 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  20. Rick McDaniel

    It isn't that simple.

    I say yes to SUPPORT of a no fly zone, and no to direct participation, in enforcement of a no fly zone. Leave that to NATO or the UN to direct.

    March 14, 2011 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  21. Chris Kauffman

    Please do a good job of reporting by explaining just what a "no-fly" zone means. I do not think people would be so quick to agree with it if they knew that it means blowing up numerous military targets in Libya and, technically, declaring war on that country. That is why President Obama wants regional and United Nations total support for this action. It probably has to happen in order to stop the carnage and stabilize the country, but it is a huge step in an already volatile situation.

    March 14, 2011 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |