Libya: What Brits and Americans think

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
March 30, 2011, 9:09 PM GMT+0

Approval of military action in Libya is broadly similar among the public in both the UK and US, with similar percentages of Brits and Americans approving of the action than disapproving, our polls from both sides of the Atlantic have shown.

  • In the UK, our Sun poll of the British public shows that on 20th March, 45% of Brits thought that taking military action in Libya was ‘right’
  • 36% of Brits though it was ‘wrong’, while a sizeable 19% said they ‘didn’t know’
  • In the US, our poll for the Economist from 29th March revealed that the American public felt similarly about taking action, with 44% saying it was ‘right’
  • However, many more Americans said they didn’t know (39%) compared to just 17% who actively disagreed with military action

Since strikes began on 19th March, the military action in Libya, involving Britain, the US and France among others, have been a constant presence on the global news agenda. While NATO has since taken control of the proceedings, President Obama provided further fuel for debate by saying he has not yet ‘ruled out’ sending arms to Libyan rebels in a bid to help them overcome leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who, despite international condemnation and the imposition of a no-fly zone, is still fighting to retain power.

Deposing Gaddafi

When it comes to approval of leaders’ responses to the unrest, our polls showed that Brits think Prime Minister David Cameron has handled the situation better than President Barack Obama, while Americans are split over whether to approve of Obama’s response. And while our question for the Sun shows that Brits are very much against the sending of group troops into Libya to depose Gaddafi, questions asking Americans about the targeting of Gaddafi in other ways garnered more support for action (although Americans were not specifically asked about whether to send in ground troops).

  • 44% of the British public feels that Cameron’s handling of the situation has been good, while 38% disagree
  • In contrast, only 29% of Brits say that Obama’s response to the conflict has been good, while 45% feel it has been poor
  • 40% of Americans approve of Obama’s response, compared to an equal 40% who disapprove
  • 69% of Brits said that Britain should not send in troops to Libya to help depose Gaddafi (while just 21% would support such a move)
  • But when asked whether Colonel Gaddafi should be targeted if the opportunity arose, 46% of Americans felt that strikes should aim to kill him
  • While just 17% of Americans disagree
  • 34% of Americans feel that the action should actively aim to remove Gaddafi from power, while 29% disagree

See the survey details and full results of the British poll here

Full survey details and results of the US poll coming soon