Just say no. That’s the prevailing view of Americans in two new polls on American intervention in Syria. And details also show a gender gap: more women oppose getting involved then men. The polls make the debate now unfolding in Congress even more difficult: members of Congress will have to decide if the arguments made by the Obama administration convincingly show there is a greater good in acting on Syria — and greater danger to the behavior of nations in the future and firmly established international norms — to override polling. And, so far at least, the 21st century has not been notable for a large numbers of “Profiles in Courage.”
First there’s the Pew poll:
President Obama faces an uphill battle in making the case for U.S. military action in Syria. By a 48% to 29% margin, more Americans oppose than support conducting military airstrikes against Syria in response to reports that the Syrian government used chemical weapons.
The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Aug. 29-Sept. 1 among 1,000 adults, finds that Obama has significant ground to make up in his own party. Just 29% of Democrats favor conducting airstrikes against Syria while 48% are opposed. Opinion among independents is similar (29% favor, 50% oppose). Republicans are more divided, with 35% favoring airstrikes and 40% opposed.
Three-quarters (74%) believe that U.S. airstrikes in Syria are likely to create a backlash against the United States and its allies in the region and 61% think it would be likely to lead to a long-term U.S. military commitment there. Meanwhile, just 33% believe airstrikes are likely to be effective in discouraging the use of chemical weapons; roughly half (51%) think they are not likely to achieve this goal.
However, most believe Assad is guilty of using chemical weapons; 53% say there is clear evidence that the Syrian government used them against civilians there while just 23% say there is no clear evidence of a chemical attack. While those who think the evidence is clear offer modestly more support for airstrikes, even here as many oppose as support U.S. military involvement (41% each).
Overall, just 32% of Americans say Obama has explained clearly why the U.S. should launch military airstrikes against Syria while 48% say he has not explained the reasons clearly enough.
Although Democrats tend to oppose airstrikes against Syria, they give higher marks than Republicans to Obama for making the case for military action.
About half of Democrats (52%) say Obama has clearly explained reasons for conducting airstrikes in Syria, while 33% say he has not. Majorities of Republicans (60%) and independents (54%) say he has not explained the rationale for airstrikes clearly enough.
Most independents (58%) and Republicans (54%) also say that U.S. airstrikes in Syria are not likely to be effective in discouraging the use of chemical weapons. Democrats are more closely divided – nearly as many say they will not be effective (40%) in achieving this goal as say they will (46%).
And then the gender gap:
Men are twice as likely as women to favor U.S. military airstrikes against Syria. Among men, nearly as many favor (39%) as oppose (46%) the
9-3-13 #4proposed military action. Among women, just 19% support airstrikes, while 49% are opposed. Women are more uncertain about what to do at this point – 31% offer no opinion compared with just 15% of men.
Go to the link to read it all.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that 6 in 10 oppose the U.S. going it alone, but the margin narrows a bit if other countries are involved:
Nearly six in 10 Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll oppose unilateral U.S. missile strikes against Syria, and even more oppose arming the Syrian rebels – a complication for Barack Obama and proponents of military action in Congress alike.
Even given the United States’ assertion that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in the civil war there, 59 percent in the national survey, conducted Wednesday through Sunday, oppose U.S. missile strikes, far more than the 36 percent who support them.
Basically, the poll suggests that Americans are war-weary and distrustful of vows now from government officials that wars will be limited. The scars of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan remain.
Showing greater acceptance of allied action, attitudes move close to an even division on air strikes if other countries such as Great Britain and France participated – 46 percent in favor, 51 percent opposed. The U.K. House of Commons voted down military action last week, while France has signaled its willingness to participate.
At the same time this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that 70 percent oppose the United States and its allies supplying weapons to the Syrian rebels, underscoring the extent of public skepticism about U.S. involvement there.
A striking result is the lack of partisanship on the issue. Similar numbers of Democrats and Republicans alike oppose both unilateral U.S. air strikes and supplying arms to the opposition. And both groups divide closely on allied air strikes.
Public compunctions about involvement in Syria also are shown in strength of sentiment on the issue. Nearly four in 10 Americans, 39 percent, “strongly” oppose unilateral U.S. air strikes, vs. 18 percent who strongly support them. And the gap on arming Syrian rebels is even wider – 50 percent “strongly” opposed, vs. just 9 percent strongly in support.
The results to some extent reflect pre-existing attitudes; in an ABC/Post poll in December, 73 percent of Americans said the United States should not get involved in the situation in Syria. However, at that time, 63 percent said they’d favor military action if Syria used chemical weapons against its people. The new findings indicate a re-thinking of that view given the latest developments.
Meanwhile, in the Republican Party, GOP support for a strong military response can no longer be counted on due to the rebirth of the Taft Republicans.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.