Continued public support for RAF air strikes, but many worry ISIS is winning

William JordanUS Elections Editor
May 23, 2015, 8:24 AM GMT+0

Six in ten approve of the anti-ISIS air campaign, but hardly anyone thinks the terror group is losing its grip and most would back increased commitment

Days after an ISIS leader was killed in a risky US special forces raid, the terror group secured a serious of important strategic and symbolic victories in Iraq and Syria. The fall of Iraq’s Ramadi and Syria’s Palmyra has stoked concerns about US anti-ISIS strategy, which relies on local ground forces backed by air strikes from the US-led coalition. Britain is among the coalition partners, and a recent report revealed that the RAF had dropped over 200 bombs and missiles on ISIS targets in Iraq, though this makes up only a “fraction” of the number of US airstrikes.

YouGov has tracked public opinion on UK involvement in the air campaign against ISIS since last summer. In the latest survey, 59% approve of the RAF participation in the air strikes and only 15% disapprove, marking little change from October. 26% are undecided. At 15%, disapproval is at an all-time low.

The RAF jets carried out their first combat missions in Iraq in late September 2014. Support for air strikes increased dramatically after the beheading of several Western journalists and aid workers by ISIS, including Briton David Haines.

The majority, 55%, would also favor an increased commitment by Britain, similar to findings in a February YouGov poll. Only 19% would be opposed.

Winning or losing?

The wide support for greater involvement may be rooted in anxieties about the current campaign: half the public (50%) believe ISIS is more powerful than they were 6 months ago. Only 5% think the terror group’s capabilities have been degraded, while a third (32%) think little has changed. The survey was conducted after the fall of Ramadi, but before it was reported that ISIS had gained control of Palmyra and a key Syria-Iraq border crossing.

Those who want increased UK commitment to defeating the terror group, which now controls vast swathes of Iraq and Syria, might also be unsure about the state of Britain’s current involvement.

YouGov’s latest survey also asked respondents whether, to their knowledge, the RAF is currently taking part in air strike operations against Iraq. More say yes (33%) than no (18%), but by far the largest group – 49% – are unsure.

PA image

See the full poll results