The majority of Americans believe ISIS is the greatest threat to the United States from the Middle East, according to a survey led by Shibley Telhami, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. The poll was conducted Nov. 14-19, 2014, and surveyed more than one thousand American adults on ISIS and the Syria conflict. The perception of ISIS as a major threat varied little along party lines, but Republicans were more likely to favor sending ground troops to fight ISIS – 53 percent were in favor compared to 36 percent of Democrats. Only 14 percent of Americans believe that the majority of Muslims support ISIS. The following are excerpts of the survey’s key findings.

Ranking of the ISIS Threat

Americans overwhelmingly say that ISIS is the biggest challenge facing the United States in the Middle East—well above Iranian behavior and Palestinian-Israeli violence. Overall, 70% say ISIS is the biggest threat, compared with 13% for Palestinian-Israeli violence and 12% for Iranian behavior. Unlike most other policy issues toward the Middle East, there is little variation on this issue across party lines.

Degree of Support for Deploying Ground Forces

If airstrikes fail to stop ISIS, 57% of Americans oppose and 41% support sending ground forces to fight ISIS. However, there are significant differences across party lines: a majority of Republicans (53%) support sending ground forces compared with only 36% of Democrats and 31% of Independents.

Assessed Support for ISIS

Only a minority of Americans (14%) believe that ISIS has support among the majority of Muslims around the world. The rest are divided between those who say that Muslims are evenly split (44%) and those who say there is only minority support (40%). However, there are major differences across party lines: 22% of Republicans believe that a majority of Muslims support ISIS compared with 6% of Democrats and 13% of Independents.

Americans are evenly divided among those who are and are not worried that a significant number of Americans will join ISIS and carry out attacks in the United States. Democrats and Independents are somewhat less worried than Republicans. But, to put this in perspective, Americans are a little less worried about possible American support for ISIS than American support for Al Qaeda: 56% say it’s about the same, 25% say possible American support for ISIS would be less than for Al Qaeda, and 17% think it would be more than for Al Qaeda.

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