Libya Poll: Plurality Of U.S. Public Supports Airstrikes, But Majority Unsure of Goal

WASHINGTON -- According to a poll released Monday by the Pew Research Center, a plurality of Americans support U.S. airstrikes in Libya, but a majority say they see no clear goal to international involvement.

The new survey found that 47 percent of adult respondents thought that the United States and its allies made the right decision by conducting military airstrikes in Libya, while 36 percent thought it was the wrong decision. However, half of all respondents said the United States and its allies had no clear goal in their involvement. Thirty-nine percent said they did think the coalition had a clear goal.

The poll also found disagreement over what the goal of international involvement should be. While 46 percent said it should be to remove Qaddafi, 43 percent said that it should be to protect civilians from violence.

Although only a few organizations have polled the American public on Libya since airstrikes began, other recent surveys suggest that the presence or absence of a clear goal in the public eye could be a key issue. While a simple approve/disapprove question on a Gallup poll released last week found similar levels of support for "current military action" in Libya as the new Pew poll (47 percent approved of U.S. action and 37 percent disapproved), a CBS News poll found much higher support when they told respondents that "the U.S. military and other countries have begun cruise missile and air strikes in Libya in order to protect civilians from attacks by Qaddafi's forces." The CBS News question found approval of airstrikes at 68 percent and disapproval at 26 percent.

Most respondents to the Pew survey said they do not believe the United States will make a speedy exit from Libya -- 60 percent said U.S. military involvement "will last for some time," while 33 percent said it "will be over fairly quickly." However, only 35 percent of respondents said they thought America was leading military involvement there, while 57 percent said the nation was just part of a coalition.

The Pew survey was conducted March 24-27 among 1,002 adults, and had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.