On the eve of the start of military intervention in Libya by the U.S. and its allies, the American public by a wide margin expressed the view that the United States did not have a responsibility to do something about the fighting between government forces and anti-government groups in Libya. A survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted March 10-13, found that 63% said the U.S. had no responsibility to act in Libya; fewer than half as many (27%) said the U.S. had this responsibility. Reflecting the public’s reluctance about U.S. involvement in Libya, barely half (51%) favored increasing economic and diplomatic sanctions against Libya. The public was divided over the possibility of enforcing a no-fly zone — 44% favored this action while 45% were opposed. Yet just 16% favored bombing Libyan air defenses, while 77% opposed such bombing. And large majorities rejected providing arms to anti-government groups (69%) and sending troops into Libya (82%). Thinking about the Middle East more generally, Americans see regional stability as more important than increasing democracy. In a separate survey conducted March 8-13, 52% say it is more important to have stable governments in the Middle East even if there is less democracy; 38% say it is more important to have democratic governments in the region, even if there is less stability. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.