Do Americans think President Obama has a clear plan for ISIS?

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

Just over a week after the terrorist attacks in Paris, only 23 percent of Americans think President Barack Obama has a clear plan for dealing with the militant group ISIS, the lowest number yet recorded in the CBS News Poll. Sixty-six percent do not think he has a clear plan - a new high.

Large majorities of Republicans and independents say the President doesn't have a clear plan, and almost half of Democrats (40 percent) agree. More Democrats (45 percent) say he doesn't have a plan than say he does.

In considering military options, 50 percent of Americans now favor sending in U.S. ground troops to fight ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria, up four points from August. Support for sending ground troops rose to 57 percent in February in the immediate aftermath of the death of aid worker Kayla Mueller, but then dropped below 50 percent until now.

Two-thirds of Republicans favor using U.S. ground troops to fight ISIS, while about half of Democrats oppose that. Still, support for using ground troops has inched up among Americans across the political spectrum.

Most Americans (63 percent) think ground troops will be necessary to remove the threat from ISIS militants; just one in five thinks the threat from ISIS can be removed using airstrikes alone. Majorities of Republicans (73 percent), Democrats (59 percent), and independents (60 percent) think ground troops will be necessary. Views have changed little over the past year.

Syrian Refugees

As large numbers of Syrians flee the violence in their country, Americans are split on whether the U.S. should allow Syrian refugees into the country. 47 percent say they should be allowed to enter as long as they go through a screening process, but slightly more -50 percent- say they should not be allowed to come to the U.S. at this time.

There is a stark partisan divide on this: 68 percent of Republicans say Syrian refugees should not be allowed into the country at this time, while 63 percent of Democrats think they should be allowed.

However, there is widespread agreement on a stricter screening process for Syrian refugees. Nearly eight in 10 Americans (78 percent) - including majorities of all partisan stripes- say it is necessary for Syrian refugees to go through a stricter security process than they do now.


This poll was conducted by telephone November 19-22, 2015 among a random sample of 1,205 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 poll employed a random digit dial methodology. For the landline sample, a respondent was randomly selected from all adults in the household. For the cell sample, interviews were conducted with the person who answered the phone. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish using live interviewers.

The data have been weighted to reflect U.S. Census figures on demographic variables.

CBS News Poll: Obama's plan to fight ISIS