Strong public opposition to Syria strike, no matter the politics

It’s hard to remember the last time a national issue in the United States didn’t break down along party lines.

Syria, and whether the U.S. should bomb it, is that kind of issue, a new poll confirms.

More Americans — 48 percent  to 29 percent — oppose than support conducting military airstrikes against Syria in response to reports that the Syrian government used chemical weapons, the survey this afternoon from Pew Research says.

There are a few whiffs of partisanship in the breakdown of the poll, but not many:

Pew Research

If there is a gap in how Americans feel about this, it’s gender. Men are twice as likely as women to favor U.S. military airstrikes, the poll says.

Nonetheless, only about a third of Americans are watching the issue “very closely.”

Here’s the full poll.

  • Dave

    Given the nauseating lack of critical thinking applied to the Iraq War, and the higher public approval prior to that war, I can only imagine that these numbers are low because Obama has not sufficiently “sold” us on Syria. Which, if you think about it, is just breathtakingly hypocritical. We were warned that we may see a mushroom cloud over Manhattan. We gotta go now. Gotta invade. Can’t wait another minute. And now you have a guy who actually used WMD to kill humans. Americans (and much of the world) respond with, “meh.”

    I do believe that something should be done; you shouldn’t be allowed to gas people. The world should stand in unified opposition to that. However, there also needs to be consensus among the powers-that-be. And if the world cannot or will not come together to punish Syria, then we need to take a giant step backwards and completely re-examine what it means to be a part of civilization. Too many countries appear to be opting for “meh.” (i.e., the UK, Canada, Germany) I find that unacceptable. I don’t believe the US should go it alone. That serves to further cement our reputation as the world’s police. Worse, it lets the world’s major powers off the hook. The story of the Little Red Hen is relevant here.

    • Saddam Hussein used gas on his people, too. It was 1988. The U.S. didn’t do anything about that. Hussein also used gas years earlier on the Al Basrah front. And last week came the claim that the U.S. “helped.” (http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/08/new-docs-show-us-involvement-saddams-nerve-gas-attacks/68698/).

      Also I’m not sure John McCain is helping those who support U.S. intervention. His response to nearly every foreign policy question appears to be “bomb it.”

      • Dave

        And it was wrong of the world to ignore what Saddam did. Had we dealt with him then, at least two subsequent wars would have been avoided. Unfortunately, that was during the Reagan years, when our defense policy amounted to “what deficit?” and “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

        As for McCain, suddenly he thinks that we should take a measured, careful approach to war. I can’t tell you how relieved I am that he has arrived at that position. Him and lovely-haired Lindsey alike.

        • Shelly Leit

          McCain thought we should bomb Iran. He’s a moron.

        • Had we dealt with him then? That’s kind of the problem. We DID deal with him then. We were on HIS side.

    • Shelly Leit

      What should be done should be by resolution in the UN, not unilateral action by any one country, especially a non-Middle Eastern country. The attempts to sell the war to us by saying it’s a matter of “national security” is galling and insulting.

      • John O.

        One does not need a degree in International Relations to know that the Russians and/or Chinese will veto any resolution and that will be that.

        • Shelly Leit

          Then that should be that. If a veto would happen it would not automatically justify unilateral action by the US. We meddle far too much in things that have nothing to do with us and if we don’t go to the UN with matters like this then we weaken the UN and weaken our own “moral highground” which right now is buried in the swamp.

  • Shelly Leit

    It’s ironic that support in Washington is also non-partisan — they all seem to be for it no matter what their political ideology. I think “Going to War” is becoming it’s own political ideology and is shared by members of Congress, nearly automatically.

  • Question. Does napalm qualify as a chemical weapon?

    • Shelly Leit

      Does white phosphorous, which the US used in Fallujah on civilians? White Phosphorous burns flesh down to the bone. Should someone have “intervened” when we did that?

    • KTN

      Yes, napalm and agent orange are chemical weapons, and were used by our government against the enemy and civilians alike. Which brings the question – what is the difference between poison gas, machetes, drones or a bomb: dead is dead.

      I think what gets lost is why, the real why, we are going to war in Syria, not just that they may or may not have gassed civilians. Are we required to intervene every time a dictator commits an atrocity, which I guess answers itself- we do.

  • John O.

    Over all satisfaction with Congress is what, 12 percent or something like that? Seeing as how the Brits have already taken a “pass” on this, I suspect there are Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who are thinking there may be more upside to voting “no.” I’m guessing this squeaks through the Senate, but gets squashed in the House.

    • MrE85

      The leaders of the House have publically backed Obama’s position. But they have done that before, then chickened out. Worst. Speaker. ever.

      • John O.

        Rank-and-file on both sides of the aisle in the House have bucked their leadership on several occasions with little to fear in terms of retribution. Constituents are not going to be impressed with any M.C. saying something to the effect of “Trust me. I saw the intelligence data, but I can’t tell you anything beyond that.”

        • MrE85

          Like her or not, Nancy P. never spoke publicly until she knew she had the votes to back her position. And God help any freshman representative who challenged her authority. Especially if they were a Democrat.

  • MrE85

    There is plenty of room for hair-splitting on what is or is not okay in the legalized murder we call war. On the subject of chemical weapons, those lines were drawn shortly after the Great War, when both sides used them to horrific effect. I just recently learned that a relative of mine, a small, frail old man I remember as a child, had been gassed in World War I. So for me, there is a personal link. I actually knew someone who had chemical weapons used against them.
    I believe in the “lose-lose” scenario, and this may be one of them for the United States.
    Perhaps a rebel fighter will get lucky and get a clean shot at Assad’s head before the cruise missiles start flying. But I wouldn’t count on it. His death is likely the only real “game-changer” in this situation, and I wouldn’t count on that happening soon. At least, not at our hands.

    • John O.

      Be careful what you wish for. If we have not learned anything else (and that is debatable), it is that the next guy in line to take the reins in this part of the world may be every bit as wretched as the previous occupant. Or worse.
      Assad is probably more afraid of the Israelis than the U.S.

      • MrE85

        “..the next guy in line to take the reins in this part of the world may be every bit as wretched as the previous occupant.”
        True. And depressing.

  • Amanda H.

    I am curious to see what the breakdown on airstrikes would be along lines of those who have friends or family members in the military. Even an attack with no “boots on the ground” has its risks. And also, what’s the point of “punishing” the regime for using chemical weapons? Are we trying to say, “If you had continued to massacre civilians in the traditional way, with bombs and guns, we wouldn’t be bothering you now.” After all, those methods have killed tens of thousands more civilians than gas has.