Poll Numbers Buoy Military Intervention

President Obama speaks to a nation more willing to return to Iraq to combat radical Islamists.

President Obama speaks to a nation more willing to return to Iraq to combat radical Islamists.

For a nation weary of war and wary of the Middle East, the swing in poll numbers supporting U.S. military action against Islamic radicals in Iraq and Syria is nothing short of remarkable.

As President Obama addresses the nation, a new poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News indicates 61 percent of Americans favor confronting the Islamic state. A third of respondents approved of both airstrikes and ground troops to degrade and destroy the radical group that has swept through and captured large chunks of Iraq and a portion of Syria. A year ago, only 21 percent of Americans supported U.S. military action in the Middle East.

The videotaped beheading of two U.S. journalists has played a role in reversing American attitudes to support a more aggressive posture, which presumably wasn't what the radicals had in mind. The WSJ/NBC News poll was conducted just after the beheadings.

The swing in attitude toward the radicals gives Obama a chance to revive his sagging 32 percent approval rating on his handling of national defense and foreign policy issues. It also gives him more latitude in selecting a strategy.

Ironically, Obama may have newfound GOP support for counterterrorism. In a meeting with Obama, Republican House Speaker John Boehner expressed support for training and equipping Iraqi security forces and Syrian rebels and for sending U.S. troops back into the region if the mission was to eliminate the radicals.

More hawkish viewpoints pose their own dilemma. Supporters say it won't be enough to contain the Islamic state, it must be defeated.

When Obama earlier considered air strikes in Syria, he got pushback from members of his own political party and a lack of backing in Congress. He steps on the stage tonight more sure-footed with polls numbers and unifying political forces in support of military action.

The WSJ/NBC News poll consisted of telephone interviews with 1,000 registered voters, including 350 respondents who use cell phones. The poll was conducted by Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies and Fred Yang at Hart Research.