The Washington Post

Obama’s biggest boosters on Iraq: Conservative Republicans — kind of

Volunteers in the newly formed "Peace Brigades" raise their weapons and chant slogans against the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State during a parade in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City, Baghdad, in June. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

President Obama's decision to launch airstrikes in Iraq was a popular one -- especially among his biggest political adversaries, conservative Republicans.

According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 63 percent of conservative Republicans and 61 percent of all Republicans support Obama's decision to launch the airstrikes. By comparison, 54 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of independents also sign off on the use of force.

Americans overall support the action 54 to 39 percent.

But just because Obama's big decision was a popular one doesn't mean he's suddenly won a bunch of new supporters. In fact, quite the contrary. His approval rating on his handling of Iraq remains at just 42 percent -- unchanged from two months ago when the situation in northern Iraq was deteriorating quickly.

And conservative Republicans -- who are also the biggest supporters of Obama's less-popular decision to arm Kurdish forces against the radical Sunni insurgents -- are only slightly more approving of Obama's handling of Iraq than they were before. While 10 percent of them approved of it in June, 16 percent approve today.

Here's how that looks:

Despite a slight uptick among Republicans, Obama's approval has actually ticked down over the last two months among Democrats and independents -- even as pluralities of these two groups also support the airstrikes.

While conservative Republicans are about as supportive of the airstrikes as they were two months ago, Democrats and independents, who were once significantly more skeptical about the idea, have warmed to it.

Still, though, conservatives are the most hawkish when it comes to Iraq.

Obama's decision to arm the Kurdish forces, meanwhile, earns slightly more disapproval (49 percent) than approval (45 percent). That's curious, because arming sympathetic forces overseas is often more popular than direct U.S. involvement -- in large part because it doesn't involve risking American lives.

While a majority of Republicans back this decision, Democrats are split and independents oppose it by a 55 to 39 percent margin.

The lessons of the new poll?

1. Views of Obama's handling of Iraq are not just about his most recent decisions -- significant as they are. Even among Democrats, this is true. While 53 percent of liberal Democrats support the airstrikes and 47 percent support arming the Kurds, overall 78 percent say they approve of his handling of Iraq.

Clearly the withdrawal of forces from Iraq, which was a promise that helped deliver Obama the presidency, remains a factor -- along with partisan politics, of course. Still, this is one of those rare issues on which Obama is more allied with conservative Republicans than his own base, which will make his future decision-making processes more interesting.

2. For all the talk about how the Republican Party has become more non-interventionist, the situation in Iraq seems to suggest it still clearly remains the more hawkish party. Even with a president of the opposite party whom the GOP base despises, GOPers are still strongly supportive of that president taking military action when they see the U.S. investment in Iraq taking a turn for the worse.

Rand Paul, take notice.

Peyton M. Craighill and Scott Clement contributed to this post.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Deaf banjo player teaches thousands
Unconventional warfare with a side of ale
It's in the details: Five ways to enhance your kitchen makeover
Play Videos
Drawing as an act of defiance
A fighter pilot helmet with 360 degrees of sky
Border collies: A 'mouse trap' for geese on the National Mall
Play Videos
Bao: The signature dish of San Francisco
This man's job is binge-watching for Netflix
What you need to know about Planned Parenthood
Play Videos
How to save and spend money at college
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom
Europe's migrant crisis, explained
Next Story
Jaime Fuller · August 19, 2014

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.