Poll: 64 Percent Say Airstrikes Against Syria Are "Unnecessary" for US Credibility; Just 32 Percent Say Obama Better than Bush in Handling Foreign Policy


In President Obama's speech tonight, he will attempt to persuade lawmakers and the American public that airstrikes against Syrian miltiary targets are necessary to respond to reports that the Assad regime used chemical weapons against its civilians. However, pollsconsistently find the American public is opposed to intervening in the two year long Syrian civil war, especially without international support. Nevertheless President Obama has argued that:

"Failing to respond to this outrageous attack would increase the risk that chemical weapons could be used again; that they would fall into the hands of terrorists who might use them against us, and it would send a horrible signal to other nations that there would be no consequences for their use of these weapons."'

Despite the President's calls for action, 64 percent of the American public do not believe military action is necessary to protect American credibility or national security, the latest Reason-Rupe poll finds.

To be clear, the American public does believe the international community has a responsibility to respond in some way to the reports of Syrian chemical weapon use; however, that doesn't necessarily imply they endorse military force. Instead, Americansare skeptical that US intervention would improve the situation for Syrian civilians, fear a backlash against the US, and worry that taking targeted military action today could lead to US troops on the ground in Syria in the future. These reasons likely explain whythree-fourths of Americans say it would be unwise for the US to unilaterally strike Syria, without the UN or Great Britain. At the same time, even with other countries' support, a majority of Americans oppose intervention.

Throughout most of Obama's tenure as president, a majority has favored his handling of foreign policy. However, in recent weeks, disapproval of Obama's general job performance and handling of foreign policy has shot up to 51 and 58 percent respectively. 

Perhaps more devastating to the Obama administration is that only a third of Americans say the president is handling foreign policy better than predecessor and oft-criticized George W. Bush. Partisanship clearly plays a role in how Americans perceive Obama's handling of foreign policy. Fifty-five percent of Republicans, 33 percent of independents and 12 percent of Democrats, feel President Obama is handling foreign policy worse than former President Bush did.Twenty-nine percent of Democrats, 34 percent of Republicans and 35 percent of Independents believe President Obama is handling foreign policy the same as President Bush did. In contrast 56 percent of Democrats, 27 percent of Independents, and 8 percent of Republicans say Obama has better handled foreign policy than his predecessor.

Post Iraq, Libya and Egypt, it's hardly surprising that nearly half of Americans believe the DC political establishment is more inclined toward foreign intervention. In fact, 57 percent of Independents, 52 percent of women, and 51 percent of fiscal conservatives all perceive Washington insiders as more likely to favor foreign intervention than regular Americans.

As President Obama prepares to address the American public tonight in efforts to persuade and mobilize Congress to approve authorization of airstrikes against Syria, he faces an uphill battle. Theseresults from the latest Reason-Rupe poll demonstrate the difficulty the President faces in convincing the public that intervention is necessary for national credibility and security and that it can be effective even without international support.


Nationwide telephone poll conducted September 4-8 2013 interviewed 1013 adults on both mobile (509) and landline (504) phones, with a margin of error +/- 3.7%. Columns may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Full poll results found here. Full methodology can be found here.

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  1. Is Reason having a drinking contest today I don’t know about?

    1. The drinking contest was better when Postrel was in charge.

  2. Poll: 64 Percent of Commenters Say Alt-text About Syria Polls Say or Worse than it’s Posts’ Predecessors

  3. Reason sure has a lot invested in these polls. You guys just keep milking them to the max.

    1. What other use are polls? You collect the data, then try to see what they show. You look this way, then that way, and sometimes interesting patterns emerge.

  4. What’s interesting about that bottom chart is that around 20% of the population is more likely to want military action than they perceive the assholes in the government do. Reason #3,478,652 to reduce the size of government: fewer opportunities for war mongers.

  5. In a part of the world where false flags are common, even if the rebels did not release chemical weapons and blame it on government forces, responding by bombing Assad would probably increase the chances that the rebels would acquire and release chemical weapons in the future. If they could blame a second chemical attack on the Assad regime Jugears would go all out and we would have boots on the ground.

    I just dont see a win in this for us. The best strategy is to stay the fuck out of Syria.

    1. Um, if we’re at war with Assad and Iran, and they have chemical weapons, that’s AWESOME. We get to have a huge defensive war that distracts from the NSA.

      And if Al Qaeda-associated rebels get chemical weapons and turn them against us? HUGE boost in government approval ratings, just like after 9/11, and the TSA will get to expand to schools and public events.

      It could backfire, but it’s worth a shot, right?

  6. The current front-runner among reasons to attack Syria is that failure to do so would embolden the terrorists.

    Pardon me, but haven’t those guys been doing their level best for decades to attack the US wherever they can? And how do we respond? By sending troops to their turf where it’s easier for them to be attacked.

    Meanwhile, the most obvious terrorists continue to waltz into the US and carry out their attacks unmolested.

    What exactly is the point of these overseas adventures if it does nothing to stop terrorists from entering the US?

  7. “Just 32 Percent Say Obama Better than Bush in Handling Foreign Policy”

    That’s still around 10 percent more than actually voted for him, you know.

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