News Release

Reason-Rupe Poll: Just 32 Percent Say President Obama Is Handling Foreign Policy Better Than President George W. Bush Did

74 percent of Americans say strikes on Syria would be "unwise" and half of Americans believe the "D.C. establishment" wants war more than the public does

As the country debates launching airstrikes on Syria, President Barack Obama’s standing on foreign policy has taken such a hit that the latest Reason-Rupe poll finds 64 percent of Americans, including 68 percent of independents and 41 percent of Democrats, believe President Obama’s handling of foreign policy is worse than, or the same as, former President George W. Bush’s handling of foreign policy. Just 32 percent of Americans say President Obama is handling foreign policy better than Bush did.

President Obama famously said he opposes “dumb wars.” Nearly three-quarters of Americans, 74 percent, say it would be “unwise” for the United States to launch airstrikes on Syria without the support of the United Nations or Great Britain. Just 17 percent say U.S. strikes on Syria would be wise.

When it comes to launching U.S. military action across the globe, 47 percent of Americans say the “political establishment in Washington D.C.” is more likely to favor military action than they are. A majority of independents, 57 percent, and women, 52 percent, say D.C. insiders are more likely to favor war than they are. In contrast, just 17 percent of Americans say the Beltway establishment is less likely to favor military action than they are.

The Reason-Rupe poll, executed by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, conducted live interviews with 1,013 adults on mobile [509] and landline [504] phones from September 4-8, 2013. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.7 percent. The poll’s sample was made up of 38 percent independents, 29 percent Democrats, and 23 percent Republicans.

Nearly two-thirds, 64 percent, of Americans say striking Syria is not necessary to protect America’s credibility and national security, while 26 percent say a strike is necessary.

On the broad issue of foreign policy, 35 percent of Americans approve of the job President Obama is doing, whereas 58 percent disapprove.

More than half, 51 percent, of Americans say they now disapprove of the job President Obama is doing overall, while 43 percent approve. This is a dramatic reversal in the president’s overall approval ratings compared to previous Reason-Rupe surveys. In May, for example, President Obama enjoyed a 50 percent approval rating, with 43 percent disapproval.

The Reason-Rupe poll is online here and additional Reason-Rupe resources are available here.

This is the latest in a series of Reason-Rupe public opinion surveys dedicated to exploring what Americans really think about government and major issues. This Reason Foundation project is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.


Emily Ekins, Director of Polling, Reason Foundation, (310) 574-2961