This seems like a pretty clear finding: by a hefty 14-point margin, Americans with an opinion want President Obama to order airstrikes on Iraq.
But there are three reasons, broadly speaking, to be skeptical. First, the wording of the Rasmussen question says something important — that’s also false. Here’s how the Rasmussen question in airstrikes read:
Do you favor or oppose the United States making military airstrikes in Iraq to help the government fight al Qaeda-led insurgents?
The premise of Rasmussen’s question is wrong. The most important anti-government group, the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIS), is not al-Qaeda led. They splintered from al-Qaeda in February, essentially over the question of whether al-Qaeda could order ISIS around (ISIS had stopped obeying al-Qaeda orders, including ones to tamp down on civilian casualties).
Not only is this a clear mistake, but it’s a relevant one: al-Qaeda has a particularly bad perception among the American public. Americans believe, rightly, that al-Qaeda is out to attack the American homeland, and would likely be more supportive of fighting it than a separate group of Islamist militants.
Zack Beauchamp is being more generous to Rasmussen than I would be in assuming that they made a “mistake” identifying ISIS as “al Qaeda-led insurgents.” I think they know the reality but wrote the question that way to get the response they wanted. It’s not quite push polling, but it’s in the ballpark.