Non-Interventionist Republicans like Rand Paul May Help More Than Hurt the GOP


Last night Kentucky Senator Rand Paul delivered a televised response warning against President Obama's appeal for military intervention in Syria. Paul contended the president had failed to make a compelling case that the two-year ongoing Syrian civil war poses a risk to our national security. The Reason-Rupe poll shows nearly two-thirds of Americans also doubt it is necessary for the US to intervene in Syria to protect either US security or credibility.

While President Obama has not ruled out the possibility of launching military airstrikes against Syrian military targets even without Congressional approval, Paul argues this is unconstitutional. Even aside from constitutionality concerns, nearly three-fourths of Americans oppose airstrikes without Congress passing a resolution. Rand Paul cited a warning from an old exchange between James Madison and Thomas Jefferson in which Madison contended:

"The Constitution supposes what the history of all governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most … prone to [war]"

Similarly, Reason-Rupe finds roughly half of Americans (47 percent) believe the political establishment in Washington DC is more likely to favor military action than the public.

Over 200 years later, roughly half of Americans are in line with James Madison's view of the centralized state's propensity for military action.

Sen. Paul was not invited by the Republican Party to give a rebuttal to the president's speech, but Paul chose to do so "as a concerned senator." Paul's consistent warnings of foreign entanglements abroad have surprised some who came to expect more hawkish foreign policy stances from Republicans. Consequently, the latest Reason-Rupe poll asked Americans if Republicans, like Rand Paul, who generally oppose US military intervention overseas, including in Syria, made them more or less favorable toward the Republican Party, or if it made no difference. Nearly a quarter said it made them more favorable while 16 percent said less favorable.

Interestingly, Independents were twice as likely to say non-interventionist Republicans improved their perception of the Republican Party (22 percent to 11 percent). Nearly a third of Independents who lean toward the Republican Party and 36 percent of tea party supporters said lawmakers like Rand Paul made them more favorable of the Republican Party. While Republicans taking the non-interventionist approach may not move the dial for most Americans, it helps more than it hurts among key Republican constituents.


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.