Early Polling Shows No Democratic Base Retreat Over Libya–Yet

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Barack Obama won the Democratic primaries in 2008 largely because of his opposition to George W. Bush’s war of choice in Iraq, which Obama called “a dumb war” from the beginning.

Now that Obama has claimed a war of choice as his own in Libya, President Obama will test his ties to his liberal base, which he will need to turn out for him again in 2012. The early signals–via two polls, by CBS News and CNN–show no ill effects, though it must be said that most U.S. military actions get early support from the American people. It’s the long term costs–in blood and treasure–that tend to eat away at a President’s approval rating.

The U.N. Security Council acted on March 17, and the first air strikes hit Libya on March 19. Both the CBS News and CNN polls were taken between March 18 and 21, so they may not fully reflect a reaction to the attacks. But there is little in the numbers to cause serious concern for Obama.

Democrats: 66% approve of Obama’s handling of Libya in the CBS poll, while 73% approve in the CNN poll. The CNN poll shows slightly lower approval among self-described liberals–68%–but nothing close to a clear rejection.

Independents: 43% approve of Obama’s handling of Libya in the CBS poll, while 44% approve of Obama’s handling in the CNN poll. This is almost identical to the 45% of independents who generally approve of the way Obama is handling his job as president in the CNN poll.

Republicans: In the CBS poll 43% approve of how Obama is handling the situation in Libya, while 27% approve in the CNN poll. Interestingly, 35% of  self-described conservatives approve of Obama’s handling of Libya, eight points higher than Republicans generally.