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CNN Poll: Obama dovish on foreign policy
01:22 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

A new CNN poll indicates half of Americans self-identify as foreign policy doves

Slightly less, 45%, describe themselves as hawks

Two-thirds of Americans still consider President Obama a dovish commander in chief

Obama has ordered airstrikes in seven countries

Washington CNN  — 

With the United States now launching airstrikes in Syria – the seventh country bombed under the Obama administration—debate over foreign policy has once again ballooned, pitting the interventionist hawks against non-interventionist doves.

A new CNN/ORC International survey indicates that half of Americans consider themselves doves on foreign policy, while slightly less describe themselves as hawks. The poll also shows that two-thirds of Americans describe President Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, as a dove, while 29% consider him a hawk.

Hawks vs. Doves

The President’s plan to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS includes a coalition airstrike campaign and the arming and training of Syrian rebel forces that are also fighting the extremist group. Altogether, the plan marks yet another U.S. involvement overseas.

According to the survey, 50% of Americans view themselves as doves, defined in the poll as “someone who believes the U.S. should rarely or never use military force,” compared to 45% who self-identify as hawks, “someone who believes that military force should be used frequently to promote U.S. policy.”

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That trend between hawks and doves has “remained remarkably consistent over the years,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. The number of self-described hawks typically ranges between 44% and 45%, with the number of hawks slightly higher, and in recent years, hovering around the 50% mark.

Hawks are more likely to be men, live in the South and Midwest, come from rural areas, and have no college education, Holland said.

“Self-described doves are more likely to be women, live in the Northeast and the West, come from urban areas and have at least some college education,” he added.

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There’s a significant age gap, as well. Sixty-six percent of those under the age of 35 prefer a dovish foreign policy, while a majority of those older than 35 say they are hawks.

Breaking the numbers down by political affiliation, nearly seven in 10 Republicans call themselves hawks, compared to nearly six in 10 Democrats and independents who say they are doves.

Opinions of Obama

Obama came into office pledging to end U.S.-led wars but now finds himself as a commander in chief who has ordered airstrikes in a host of countries in the Middle East and in Africa.

The President has always recognized there are times when military force is necessary. Even when he accepted his Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, he said there could be instances when war is “morally justified.”

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It appears that most Americans still consider him a dovish president. Sixty-five percent view him as a dove, while about three in 10 Americans consider him a hawk, according to the survey.

On the question of whether the U.S. should take the lead in solving all the world’s problems, 58% say “no.” That represents a similar viewpoint that Obama has advocated in the past.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International by telephone with 1,010 adult Americans on September 22-25. The overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.