A majority of Americans want the United States to intensify its assault on the Islamic State following the Paris attacks, but most remain opposed to sending troops to Iraq or Syria, where the militant group is based, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found.
That view runs counter to comments by some 2016 Republican presidential candidates like former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who called on Monday for more U.S. “troops on the ground” in the region. Americans, weary after years of prolonged conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, appear reluctant to become embroiled in another war even as they push for more action.
The poll – conducted over the weekend after the suicide bomb and shootings in Paris – found that 63 percent of Americans were fearful that a Paris-style attack could happen near them, suggesting that national security could emerge as a dominant theme in the 2016 race for the White House.
Americans are more fearful now than they were in the immediate aftermath of the bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013, even though the latter took place on U.S. soil, the poll showed. In Friday’s attacks, gunmen struck a concert hall, bars, restaurants and a soccer stadium, killing about 130 people.
The poll found rising concern about terrorism. Of those polled, 17 percent listed terrorism as their top concern – a rise from 9 percent when asked in October. Terrorism tied with the economy as the top issue.
The results suggest an opening for Republican presidential candidates, who have been looking for ways to attack Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state under President Barack Obama. Clinton has argued that her foreign policy experience makes her the best qualified to be the next commander-in-chief.
The poll found that 60 percent of Americans think the United States should be doing more to attack Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. A small majority said they support using airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, but about 65 percent oppose sending special forces to the region, a move that has already been taken by Obama.
When asked about regular ground troops, the opposition grew stronger with 76 percent opposing deploying troops.
The poll also found that 52 percent of Americans think nations which accept refugees fleeing the strife in Syria are less safe. A Syrian passport found near the body of one of the Paris attackers showed that its holder passed through Greece in October, raising concern that the attackers had entered Europe amid the wave of refugees fleeing Syria’s four-year civil war.
But there was a sharp divide over whether nations should stop accepting refugees, the poll showed. Forty percent said countries should continue to accept refugees because those people are fleeing terrorism. And 41 percent said those countries should stop accepting refugees because of the threat of terrorism.