A year on from Islamic State’s sweeping offensive through much of Sunni dominated Iraq and Syria, David Cameron has framed the bid to defeat IS as the ‘struggle of our generation’. Among the British public however there is no substantive confidence that it’s possible to defeat the threat posed by Islamic State. When asked, under half (47%) of the British public think that it is ‘possible to beat the threat at the present time’, while a third (32%) think that it is ‘not possible to beat the threat’.
The Government are widely expected to go to the Commons in the next few weeks to request an extension of the UK’s air operations against Islamic State, something which a sizeable proportion of the public are likely to support. Almost half (48%) of the British public think that Britain and its allies should take part in ‘targeted air strikes against Islamic State military operations’ to defeat the threat of Islamic State.
Overall, there is little appetite among the British public for a robust ground operation against Islamic State. When asked, just three in ten (30%) said that they think the UK and other countries should send ground troops into places like Syria and Iraq. Despite being an option that doesn’t involve the use of troops in any sort of combat role, less than half (46%) of the British public support building up local armies in the territories where Islamic State are currently operating in. Interestingly, two fifths (41%) of the British public think that Britain and its allies should ‘try to assassinate the leaders of the Islamic state in a so-called ‘decapitation strategy’’. Men are far more likely than women to think that Britain and its allies should intervene in any way. Particularly where air strikes are concerned, where three fifths of men are in support of air strikes compared to just two fifths of women (58% vs 39%). Similarly, those aged between 18 and 24 are the least likely to think that Britain and its allies should intervene across the board.
The British public are firmly split as to whether any future interventions by Britain and its allies would make the region a safer place. Just a third (32%) think that any intervention can affect the region positively, while a slightly smaller proportion (29%) think that any interventions will actually make the region more dangerous. This number rises to two fifths (40%) among those aged between 18 and 24.
While a substantial number of the British public think that the UK and its allies should take part in targeted air strikes against Islamic State, there is clearly significant discord surrounding the path that Britain should take to defeat Islamic State. If the UK is to act in Syria and Iraq, there is considerable doubt among the British Public that it will have a positive impact on the region. It seems that the British public might still be conditioned by the experience of long campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, which will undoubtedly be the biggest stumbling block to further public support for any British action against Islamic State.
Given the nature of the IS threat, and recent atrocities in Tunisia, France and elsewhere, it is unsurprising that ISIS is viewed much less favourably in overall terms than it was when we last asked the question in 2014. Now, a full 85% have an unfavourable impression, with 80% saying they are VERY unfavourably disposed toward it. One in ten (9%) say they have a favourable impression. Read more here.
Two surveys were carried out by ICM Unlimited, the first on 1st-3rd July 2015 amongst 2001 online respondents across GB aged 18+. A second survey among 2,016 adults aged 18+ was undertaken on 3-5th July. Both surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.