The Hill Poll: Likely voters are wary of Libyan mission cost

Only a quarter of Americans believe the Obama administration’s military intervention in Libya is worth the cost, and even fewer support arming anti-regime fighters, according to a new poll for The Hill.

Notably, among the 1,000 likely voters polled, a greater proportion of self-identified conservatives voiced outright opposition on both issues than liberals or centrists. On both matters, conservative opposition was around 60 percent, and less than 20 percent said they supported either the costs of the mission (19 percent) or arming the Libyan rebels (15 percent).

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Thirty-nine percent of liberals said the mission is not worth the costs, and 38 percent opposed shipping arms to anti-regime fighters, though 39 percent were unsure about it.

Slightly less than half of centrists (49 percent) supported the price tag, while slightly more than half (51 percent) said they supported arms shipments.

The survey found that 25 percent of all those polled said the operation is worth the initial $550 million price tag, while 51 percent said it was not and 24 percent remain undecided.

Pentagon officials last week said the opening days of the bombing and no-fly zone mission ran up a $550 million tab. As NATO and other coalition aircraft take on the lion’s share of the combat sorties, U.S. military officials expect the Pentagon’s costs to level out at around $40 million a month.

Those identifying themselves as Democrats were the most supportive of paying for the operation, with 27 percent saying the mission is worth the cost. That compares to 24 percent of Republicans and 22 percent among those not affiliated with either major political party.

More than half of Republicans, 56 percent, said the Libya operation is not worth the expense. They were joined by 47 percent of Democrats and exactly half of non-affiliated individuals, according to the poll, which was conducted by Pulse Opinion Research.

Only 20 percent of GOP respondents reported being undecided about the merits of paying for the third U.S. military campaign in the Middle East, while 28 percent of independents and 26 percent of Democrats said they remained unsure. 

As senior Obama administration officials continue grappling with the question of whether to arm Libyan opposition fighters, just 19 percent of those surveyed believed doing so is a good idea. Fifty-two percent said they were against it, and 29 percent were undecided, according to the poll.

Republicans overwhelmingly opposed the idea, with only 18 percent voicing support and 58 percent opposed. The remaining 23 percent of Republicans said they weren’t certain.

A quarter of Democrats polled supported arming the opposition forces, while 41 percent were against doing so, and 33 percent remained unsure. Independents were the most skeptical, with only 13 percent supporting arms shipments, while 56 percent were opposed and 30 percent were undecided.

Senior Pentagon officials and senior lawmakers who are close to the Obama administration — such as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) — have made cryptic remarks that Washington may not have to lead an effort to equip the anti-Gadhafi fighters.

“There are a lot of players who can be helpful,” Kerry told reporters Wednesday evening after a classified briefing on Libya with senior administration, intelligence and military officials.

A poll released last week by Quinnipiac University showed 47 percent of Americans oppose U.S. military intervention in the embattled nation, with 41 percent supporting the campaign. 

But the same poll uncovered mixed signals from Americans, with 65 percent favoring Washington using the military to protect civilians from Gadhafi’s forces.