- POSTED: 22 Aug 2014 18:04
- UPDATED: 22 Aug 2014 18:07
However, the opinion poll released by USA Today and Pew also showed that half of the Americans surveyed are worried the US could get bogged down in yet another long and costly conflict in the Middle East.
WASHINGTON: The US Secretary of Defence and the Chairman of the country's Joint Chiefs of Staff have both expressed their regret at the failure of a US mission to try and rescue journalist James Foley earlier this summer.
Mr Foley was shown being executed by the Islamic State terrorist group in an online video this week, apparently in retaliation for continuing American airstrikes against them in Iraq. President Obama has vowed to continue US action, which could be an important moment in helping shape public opinion.
Even before the shocking video of James Foley's death was released on Tuesday, an opinion poll released by USA Today and Pew indicated that Americans were increasingly inclined to say the US had a responsibility to respond to the rising violence in Iraq.
Forty-four per cent of those surveyed said their country should 'do something' about the situation there - up from 39 per cent the previous month. That seems to indicate that President Obama's carefully outlined missions for the airstrikes - protecting American personnel, and carrying out humanitarian help - had met with approval.
But 51 per cent of people in the same poll also said they are concerned that the US will go too far in the mission and get bogged down in a longer term, costly operation. Analysts think the video showing James Foley's execution will ensure that public opinion stays behind the US action - but would not erase concern about 'mission creep'.
"The video was shocking. I don't think it will affect US policy decisions in that it won't affect the decision whether to continue airstrikes - if that was ISIS' goal it certainly will not happen,” said Max Hoffman, policy analyst at the Center for American Progress.
“What it will affect, however, is US public opinion. The American people are deeply ambivalent about getting potentially dragged back into Iraq but this video will underscore just how awful the ISIS threat is and there will be a great deal of anger amongst Americans, which may solidify support for the President's actions, particularly the air strikes."
President Obama's Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel has now said that ISIS is as sophisticated and well-funded as any terror group the US has seen, implying that America is in 'it for the long haul' when it comes to battling this new and brutal threat.
But that long term strategy mainly involves a more indirect approach - partnering with local forces and helping to arm them. Although brutal images like those of James Foley are engaging American attention, the legacy of the Iraq War in 2003 means they are unlikely to change the minds of the public, or the Obama administration, when it comes to putting any boots on the ground.