James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

Print Print Cite Cite
Style: MLA APA Chicago Close


Do Americans Support Operation Odyssey Dawn?

by James M. Lindsay
March 24, 2011

President Barack Obama leaves the East Room after making a statement about the situation in Libya on March 18, 2011.

President Barack Obama leaves the East Room after making a statement about the situation in Libya on March 18, 2011. (Jim Young/courtesy Reuters)

An early poll on U.S. military action against Libya is in, and the news for the White House is mixed. On the positive side, Gallup found that 47 percent of respondents approved of the strikes as opposed to 37 percent that disapproved. That’s more support for the no-fly zone than we saw in the polls conducted before Operation Odyssey Dawn began. That’s not surprising. A president’s decision to act can move public opinion, at least for a time. It’s one variant of the rally-‘round-the-flag effect.

On the negative side, the 47 percent support number is the lowest initial support figure Gallup has found in any of the initial polls it has done on U.S. military actions over the past four decades. (Gallup didn’t poll for every operation.) Public support for sustained military actions tends to drop over time. Moreover, while presidents can push public opinion in one direction, critics (and events) can push it in the other. More polls should be out shortly. That will tell us whether the criticism President Obama is getting from opponents of Operation Odyssey Dawn are gaining traction with the public.

Gallup’s poll has one other worrisome piece of news for the White House. While majorities of self-identified Democrats (51 percent) and Republicans (57 percent) support Operation Odyssey Dawn, only a minority of Independents (38 percent) do. In fact, a plurality (44 percent) of Independents oppose it. Democratic support for military action is probably soft; many Democrats likely say they approve out of party loyalty. And independent voters are who the White House has been targeting ever since losing them in the congressional midterm elections.

Of course, success in Libya—read Qaddafi’s ouster—would turn even the most dismal poll numbers around in hurry.

Post a Comment 1 Comment

  • Posted by Tom Degan

    Odyssey Dawn, what’s that flower you have on?

    What a stupid name for a battle plan. Come to think about it, they’re all given stupid names.

    They are trying to make us believe that this incursion into Libya is to protect the people of that country. Yeah. I was born very early in the morning – but it wasn’t this morning:


    Tom Degan

Post a Comment

CFR seeks to foster civil and informed discussion of foreign policy issues. Opinions expressed on CFR blogs are solely those of the author or commenter, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions. All comments must abide by CFR's guidelines and will be moderated prior to posting.

* Required