Majority now support RAF air strikes

William JordanUS Elections Editor
September 08, 2014, 9:58 AM GMT+0

Just over half the public would now approve of the RAF joining US air strike operations against ISIS, and nearly as many would support expanding the campaign into Syria

Islamic State (IS) militants have reportedly been pushed back from the strategically important Haditha Dam, in the latest evidence that air strikes conducted by the United States in Iraq have been effective. David Cameron is expected to request authorisation for the RAF to take part in the strikes, but for now the government appears focused on expanding support for international action beyond the recently formed 10-nation “core coalition”, particularly among countries in the Middle East.

YouGov has tracked public opinion around possible responses to the advance of IS since early August. The latest poll, conducted for the Sunday Times, finds over half the public (52%) would approve of the RAF taking part in RAF air strikes against IS – a dramatic 15-point shift from three weeks prior, when 37% backed the move.

Support for RAF air strikes has increased by five points from the previous poll, conducted just two days before the latest one, while opposition has fallen by seven points to just 24%, meaning the number who would approve now more than doubles those who would disapprove.

There has been a similar shift in opinion on hitting IS specifically in Syria, though the shift has come much more rapidly. A week ago (August 28-29), the British public were split 37-37% on the RAF taking part in air strikes in Syria; now 48% approve and 26% approve. Over half of the public remains opposed to sending troops back into Iraq to fight IS, but net disapproval of the idea has decreased from -38 to -28.

David Cameron and Barack Obama

YouGov’s latest poll also finds evidence that voters might be growing impatient with the prime minister’s response to the crisis. In mid-August, 40% of the public said David Cameron had handled the situation in Iraq well, while 34% said he had handled it badly. Now the numbers are inverted: only 35% give the PM positive marks and 43% give negative ones.

By contrast, 44% approve of how US president Barack Obama has handled the crisis and 34% do not. Interestingly, Obama’s approval ratings in Britain also contrast with the ones he gets at home – last week YouGov America found 31% approving and 46% disapproving of the president’s handling of the crisis in Iraq.

On Wednesday Obama is expected to detail a "game plan" for fighting IS, though the U.S. president has reiterated his pledge that no ground troops will be sent into Iraq or Syria.

Image: PA

See the full Sunday Times results

See YouGov's full tracking data on the situation in Iraq