POLITICS
09/08/2014 06:01 pm ET Updated Sep 08, 2014

Americans Support Obama's ISIS Policies, But Give Him Low Approval Rating

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Americans agree with most of the Obama administration's specific policies for taking on ISIS, but that isn't translating to strong approval ratings for the president on foreign policy.

Three quarters of Americans favor continuing airstrikes against the terrorist group, a new CNN/ORC polls finds, and 83 percent agree with providing humanitarian aid to those fleeing the violence. A 61 percent majority oppose sending ground troops to fight in Iraq or Syria, which Obama has ruled out.

Just 37 percent, though, say they approve of the way Obama is handling ISIS.

This discrepancy has been playing out in response to foreign policy conflicts throughout the year: In April, YouGov polling found that Americans were nearly twice as likely to support sanctions against Ukraine as they were to approve of Obama's actions after he imposed them. In June, a CBS/New York Times survey found Democrats five times more likely than Republicans to approve of Obama's handling of Iraq, even though an identical 54 percent in both parties backed his decision to send military advisers into the country.

That partisan split hints to one of the reasons for the disparity. Not everyone follows foreign policy all that closely: Nearly a third of Americans think the U.S. has bombed Syria recently, and nearly a quarter were willing to opine on nonexistent legislation addressing Ukraine. In the absence of extensive knowledge of U.S. military actions, many end up relying on other cues, like partisanship -- in the most recent CNN/ORC poll, Democrats were nearly six times more likely than Republicans to say Obama was doing a good job handling ISIS.

Even among his base, though, the recent string of foreign policy crises may present something of a no-win situation: while 78 percent of Democrats approve of Obama's overall job as president, just 64 percent approve of his actions toward ISIS, with nearly a third disapproving.

CNN surveyed 1,014 Americans between Sept. 5 and Sept. 7, using live interviewers to reach both landlines and cell phones.

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