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How Americans are feeling about the fight against ISIS, economy

By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto, and Fred Backus

The conflict with ISIS

As President Obama seeks new congressional authorization for using military force against ISIS, Americans' views on how things are going for the U.S. in its conflict with the militant group are negative and getting worse. Sixty-seven percent of Americans think things are going at least somewhat badly for the U.S. in its fight against ISIS - up ten percentage points from last October - including 33 percent who describe the situation as very bad.

There is public consensus for passing the military authorization bill President Obama has requested from Congress, which would allow the U.S. to use ground troops for limited operations for three years without any geographical limitations, but would preclude the use of ground troops for long term offensive operations. Two in three Americans think Congress should pass this authorization, including majorities of Democrats (71 percent), Republicans (65 percent), and independents (64 percent).

There is also widespread and growing support for U.S. airstrikes - 77 percent of Americans favor the use of airstrikes against ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria, up from 71 percent last October. More significantly, support for the use of U.S. ground troops has also risen. For the first time, a majority of Americans (57 percent) favor the U.S. sending ground troops into Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS. In October, Americans were divided, and in September these numbers were reversed.

Support for sending U.S. ground troops to fight ISIS has risen among all partisans, but particularly among Democrats and independents. Back in October, more Democrats and independents disapproved than approved of using ground troops - now more approve than disapprove.

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Most Americans think ground forces will ultimately be necessary to remove the threat from ISIS. Sixty-five percent say U.S. ground troops will be needed, while less than one in five thinks airstrikes alone will work.

Still, 85 percent of Americans continue to express at least some concern that U.S. intervention in Iraq and Syria will lead to a long and costly involvement there, including 43 percent who are very concerned.

Americans increasingly see ISIS as a threat. Now, 65 percent of Americans view ISIS as a major threat to the U.S. - up from 58 percent in October - while another 18 percent view it as a minor threat. Majorities of Republicans (86 percent), Democrats (61 percent) and independents (57 percent) view ISIS as a major threat.

More Americans disapprove (51 percent) than approve (39 percent) of how President Obama is handling the situation with ISIS, and most are still unconvinced that President Obama has a clear plan for dealing with the militant group. Six in 10 don't think he has a clear plan - the same proportion as in October. Most Republicans (84 percent) and independents (61 percent) don't think he has a clear plan, while more Democrats think he does.

News of the death of aid worker Kayla Mueller has not softened the public's resolve when it comes to the U.S. policy of refusing to negotiate with hostage-takers to secure the release of prisoners. Sixty-four percent of Americans think the U.S. should never negotiate with terrorists over hostages, up from 53 percent last September.

The Economy

While views of the state of the conflict with ISIS worsen, views of the economy - which showed improvement in last month's CBS News Poll -- continue to be positive. Now, 54 percent say the economy is in good shape, with 45 percent rating it as bad.

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Thirty-eight percent say the economy is improving, and another 42 percent say it is staying the same. Just 19 percent say it is getting worse. These figures are similar to last month.

The poll finds positive assessments of two specific economic segments. Six in ten Americans say the stock market is in good shape, 26 percent think it is getting better, and 51 percent say it is staying the same. Among those who have investments in the stock market (about half of Americans), 72 percent think the stock market is in good shape, and 33 percent think it is improving.

Views are similarly positive about the local housing market; 64 percent say it is good.

Family Finances

There is another positive economic finding from the poll -- worries about job loss have dropped since last year. While 51 percent of Americans are concerned about someone in their household losing a job in the next year, that is down from 60 percent last May. Now, 47 percent are not concerned about that, up from 38 percent.

Seventy-two percent say their household finances are good and 22 percent say their finances are improving - up from 16 percent in 2011, and the highest percentage since the question was first asked in 2006.

Three in ten Americans say their income is now enough to save and buy extras, and for another 51 percent it is enough to make ends meet. Just 17 percent say their income is not enough to pay their bills; that is the lowest that figure has been in five years.

Gas prices remain low - and that is something that many Americans say affects their pocketbook. 43 percent say gas prices affect their family finances a lot, and another 28 percent say gas prices have some effect.

Economic Opportunity and Income Inequality

But despite some positive economic assessments, 71 percent say that over the past ten years, life for the middle class has gotten worse - up from 59 percent in 2007. Among those who describe themselves as middle class, 21 percent say life for the middle class has improved, and 72 percent say it has gotten worse.

There is cynicism as well. Just 36 percent now say that anyone has a fair chance to get ahead in today's economy, down from 52 percent a year ago. Six in ten think only a few people at the top have a chance to get ahead, the highest in over four years.

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And six in ten think the rich benefit the most from the government's policies. 76 percent of Democrats think that, while Republicans are more divided: 38 percent say the rich benefit the most, and another 38 percent say the poor do.

Homeland Security Funding and Immigration Policy

The Department of Homeland Security will run out of money if Congress does not pass a bill funding it by Feb. 27. Efforts have been made to add a rider to the DHS funding bill that would block President Obama's executive action on immigration from taking effect.

Most Americans -- 60 percent -- think any agreement to fund Homeland Security should be kept separate from immigration policy. Just 29 percent think a funding bill for Homeland Security should include changes to immigration policy.

Republicans, Democrats and independents alike share these views.

Same-Sex Marriage and States' Rights

Despite the recent legal showdown in Alabama, national support for same-sex marriage continues to grow. 60 percent of Americans say it should be legal for same-sex couples to marry, up from 56 percent last September and a new high. Most Democrats (70 percent) and independents (62 percent) think same-sex marriage should be legal, while just over half of Republicans (51 percent) do not.

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Earlier this year a federal court ruled Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage illegal. Most Americans continue to think same-sex marriage should be left up to each individual state government to decide, though support for leaving this decision up to the states has dropped eight points from a year ago, from 64 percent last February to 56 percent today.

The Affordable Care Act

Approval of the Affordable Care Act has inched up to an all time high since its passage in 2010. 44 percent of Americans now approve of the law, though a majority of 52 percent continue to disapprove of the law.

While just 6 percent of Americans think the Affordable Care Act should be kept in place as it is, only 32 percent want the law repealed entirely. Most - 60 percent - think that there are some good things in the law, though changes are needed to make it work better.

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Just over half of Republicans (56 percent) think the law should be repealed entirely, while most Democrats (73 percent) and independents (61 percent) think there are good things in the law, but changes are needed.

The President

President Obama's overall job approval rating is 44 percent in this poll; about as many disapprove. These figures are similar to last month.

Evaluations of the President's handling of specific issues have also changed little since last month, with the exception of foreign policy. On that measure, evaluations are more negative than they were in January: 39 percent approve, and 50 percent disapprove. Ratings on his handling of ISIS are similarly negative.

A majority of Americans continue to say the country is off on the wrong track, while just 37 percent say it is headed in the right direction.

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This poll was conducted by telephone February 13-17, 2015 among 1,006 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Media, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

CBS News Poll, 2/19/15, ISIS, Economy by CBSNewsPolitics