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Support for U.S. Military Action in Libya Down to 39% With 37% Opposed

Support for the U.S. military mission in Libya and the president's handling of the situation is declining

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 39% of Likely U.S. Voters now agree with the president's decision to take military action in Libya, down from 45% two weeks ago just after the mission began.  Nearly as many (37%) now disagree with Obama's decision, while 24% remain undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

At the same time, only 37% rate the president's handling of the situation in Libya as good or excellent. That's down six points from a week ago, just after the president's nationally televised address to the nation explaining his reasons for helping Libyan rebels overthrow longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.  Twenty-eight percent (28%) now give the president poor marks, in line with the 30% who felt that way a week ago.

Belief that Libya is a vital national security interest of the United States today, while low before, also has slipped a bit. Just 24% now believe that to be true, compared to 27% a week ago. Fifty percent (50%) say Libya is not a vital U.S. national security interest, up from 42% two weeks ago.  Twenty-six percent (26%) are not sure.

Unchanged from last week is the finding that only 21% of voters believe the United States has a clearly defined military mission in Libya.  Fifty-seven percent (57%) say the mission is not clearly defined. Twenty-two percent (22%) are not sure.

Voters are clearly still paying attention to events in the North African country. Eighty-four percent (84%) say they are following recent news reports about the situation in Libya, with 44% who are following Very Closely.

Male voters are more strongly supportive of the military action in Libya than female voters are. They also are more positive about the president's handling of the situation there.

Fifty-three percent (53%) of Democrats and the plurality (45%) of voters not affiliated with either major party agree with the president's decision to take military action in Libya. Fifty-one percent (51%) of Republicans disagree with that decision.

Yet while 61% of Democrats give Obama good or excellent marks for his handling of the Libya situation, just 39% of unaffiliateds - and 13% of GOP voters - share that assessment.

Most Republicans and unaffiliated voters feel Libya is not a vital U.S. national security interest and that the military mission there is not clearly defined. Democrats are more narrowly divided but tend to agree.

The Political Class, however, is more emphatic.  Compared to Mainstream voters, the Political Class supports the president's decision to take military action by a two-to-one margin - 58% to 29%.

Seventy percent (70%) of Political Class voters rate the president's handling of the situation as good or excellent. Only 24% of those in the Mainstream agree.

But the Political Class is less confident about how well the mission is defined and whether Libya is a vital national security interest. Most Mainstream voters have a negative view in both instances.

In late February, before the president's military decision, 67% of Americans said the United States should stay out of the chaotic political situation in several Arab countries including Libya. 

Even before America's stepped-up involvement in Libya, 58% worried that the political unrest in Arab countries like Egypt and Libya may get America into another big war

Eighty-nine percent (89%) of Americans think it is at least somewhat likely that the unrest in the Arab world will significantly increase the cost of gasoline.  But just 38% think the United States is even somewhat likely to reduce its dependence on foreign oil by the year 2025, a goal set by the president in an energy plan made public last week. 

Fewer voters than ever give the president positive grades on his handling of national security issues.

Rasmussen Reports is an electronic media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion polling information.  We poll on a variety of topics in the fields of politics, business and lifestyle, updating our site's content on a news cycle throughout the day, everyday.

Rasmussen Reports Platinum Members get an all-access pass to polling news, analysis and insight not available to the general public.

Scott Rasmussen , president of Rasmussen Reports, has been an independent pollster for more than a decade. To learn more about our methodology, click here.

The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on April 5-6, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

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©2011 Rasmussen Reports, LLC

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