Should the U.S. send ground forces to combat the Islamic State in Iraq? According to a recent survey published by Rasmussen Reports, a majority of Americans now say “yes.” According to the survey’s results, published on Tuesday, 52 percent of respondents believe American troops should be sent back to Iraq as part of an international coalition. This number is up from 48 percent in a similar poll conducted in September.
It is important to note that while the two surveys suggest there has been an increase in the number of respondents who say the U.S. should send ground troops to fight the Islamic State in Iraq, the sampling size was notably reduced in the national survey conducted on February 6-7, 2015, compared to the survey conducted on September 3-4, 2014. Rasmussen reduced its sampling size from 1,000 likely voters to 800 likely voters, a reduction of 200 people or 20 percent.
Would it be fair, then, to compare the findings of both surveys with such a sizable gap in the number of likely voters surveyed?
Further, while the September survey also asked respondents to weigh in on sending ground troops without support from other nations, the February survey does not — a proposition fewer respondents were willing to get behind. According to the September results, only 33 percent said the U.S. should send ground troops even if other nations do not.
Obviously, since it is a national survey designed to get a specific response, the questions are not going to get into the minutia of the debate. What exactly would the international coalition have to look like for people to support sending ground troops to Iraq? How many countries have indicated that they are willing to join the U.S. in increasing the coalition’s presence on the ground in Iraq not long after the last ground war ended? How many troops are we actually talking about here, both with international support and without it? What commitment will surrounding nations make to sending ground troops into Iraq?
These questions just get into defining an international coalition and what America’s role would be in this coalition. This is a complicated issue with many variables involved. No one is asking American voters if the U.S. should reconsider its role in the Middle East or if ongoing military operations in the region are what’s best for the nation’s foreign policy. These polls just give policymakers and talking heads figures they need to justify their opinion one way or another while a real discussion on foreign policy remains absent from the national debate.