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70% of Americans back no-fly operation in Libya, CNN poll finds

The CNN/Opinion Research survey finds that support for the no-fly zone increased in the last week. But when asked about directly attacking Libyan dictator Moammar Kadafi's troops, support slips to 54%. And only 28% of respondents said they would support sending in U.S. ground troops.

March 22, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — A new poll finds that seven in 10 Americans support the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya, but that an equal amount would oppose sending in ground troops.

The CNN/Opinion Research survey of 1,012 Americans was conducted from Friday through Sunday, which means some were interviewed before the launch of Operation Odyssey Dawn on Saturday.

Support for the no-fly zone increased in the past week. An earlier survey found that 56% would support such an operation, while 40% opposed it. The new survey pegged support at 70%, with 27% opposed.

When asked about directly attacking Libyan dictator Moammar Kadafi's troops, support slips to 54%. And only 28% of respondents said they would support sending in U.S. ground troops.

As lawmakers in both parties raise questions about the mission of the coalition operation, 77% of those surveyed by CNN said removing Kadafi from power is a very important or somewhat important foreign policy goal for the nation. Eighty-three percent said protecting civilians threatened by Kadafi's forces is an important goal.

The poll showed moderate support for how President Obama is handling the situation in Libya – 50% approve, while 41% did not.

As Obama traveled to Chile, White House officials told reporters that the president "has been personally and deeply involved" in the process. He had a secure conference call with his national security team Monday morning.

"When the president made these decisions, he's been absolutely clear, I think, with the American people, with the congressional leadership, with us and the military leadership, that this is a targeted mission; that the United States' contribution to this mission is quite targeted and it is limited in scope and duration; and it is the unique things that the United States can bring," National Security Adviser Tom Donilon told reporters on Air Force One.

Donilon emphasized that operational control of the mission would shift to the NATO coalition "in a matter of days, not weeks."

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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