ISIS prompts dramatic shift in Millennials' view of US intervention

A new poll conducted by Harvard's Institute of Politics suggests that Millennials may be more interested in sending US troops abroad for the fight against ISIS than they were for previous conflicts.

A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, Iraq, June 23, 2014.

For perhaps the first time in their voting lives, a majority of Millennials support sending ground troops to fight in the Middle East.

The dramatic shift became most pronounced in the wake of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, in which gunmen and suicide bombers trained by the radical militant group known as the Islamic State killed 130 people, according to surveys of Millennials ages 18-29 conducted by Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP).

Before the Paris attacks, IOP's poll results showed about half of young Americans supporting US boots on the ground: 48 percent supported the concept, while 48 percent opposed it.

Following the events of Nov. 13th, however, when IOP asked the question again, the Institute found that 60 percent of Millennials were now in favor of sending ground troops to combat ISIS, while 40 percent were in opposition.

This is a tremendous shift from just a few years ago, when Millennials’ feeling about US involvement in conflicts overseas was very different.

"We have more than enough problems for ourselves," Dinorah Rosario, a Berklee student, told The Christian Science Monitor in 2013. "I'm not saying it's bad to step out and help another country, but we need to focus on our own problems here."

Public opinion surveys conducted around that same time also indicated mixed opinions about whether American military action in Iraq and Afghanistan had been effective: in a 2012 Chicago Council of Global Affairs survey, 70 percent of Republicans supported taking an active role in global affairs, while only 60 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of Independents did.

What, then, is different about ISIS? It may be that there is a causal link between the threat of terrorism and public support for military intervention.

In October 2002, a little over a year after 9/11, a joint poll conducted by the Pew Research Center and the Council on Foreign Relations found that most Americans (62 percent) were in favor of military action in Iraq, while 56 percent believed that "war still might be avoided."

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