Syrian civil war in photos
August 30th, 2013
08:14 AM ET
5 years ago

Poll: Half oppose military action against Syria

Washington (CNN) - Half of all Americans say they oppose possible U.S. military action against Syria, according to a new national poll.

But the NBC News survey suggests support does increase if any such attack is limited to cruise missile launches.

And nearly eight in ten of those questioned in the survey released Friday morning say President Barack Obama should be required to get Congressional approval before launching any military attack against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The poll, conducted Wednesday and Thursday, indicates 50% of the public says the U.S. should not take military action against Damascus in response to the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons against its own citizens, with 42% saying military action is appropriate.

But the survey suggests that if any military action is confined to air strikes using cruise missiles, support rises. Fifty percent of a smaller sample asked that question say they support such an attack, with 44% opposing a cruise missile attack meant to destroy military units and infrastructure that have been used to carry out chemical attacks.

The president said on Wednesday there's no doubt the Syrian regime launched chemical weapons attacks against its own people. Assad's government has blamed the August 21 attack on rebels.

As the president weighs a military response, top administration officials Thursday evening briefed member of Congress. More than 100 members of Congress are urging the White House "to consult and receive authorization" before launching any military action.

According to the poll, 79% of the public - including nearly seven-in-ten Democrats and 90% of Republicans - say Obama should be required to receive Congressional approval before taking any military action.

The War Powers Resolution passed by Congress in 1973 requires the president seek consent from Congress before force is used, or within 60 days of the start of hostilities. It also says the president must provide Congress with reports throughout the conflict.

Since 1973, the United States has used military force in Grenada in 1983, Panama in 1989, Iraq in 1991, Haiti in 1994 and Kosovo in 1999. In all those instances, presidents - both Democrats and Republicans - sidestepped Congress and committed U.S. military forces without obtaining Congressional approval.

Congress did, however, provide President George W. Bush with its approval for the war in Iraq in 2002 and the war in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

The poll also indicates that just one in five say launching military action against the Syrian government is in the U.S. national interest, with one-third disagreeing and nearly half of those questioned not sure.

Would a military strike make a difference in Syria, which has been ravaged by a bloody civil war between the government in Damascus and various rebel factions? The answer appears to be no, which just 27% saying a U.S. attack will improve the situation for Syrian civilians. Just over four in ten disagree and three in ten aren't sure.

The NBC News poll was conducted August 28-29, with 700 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

CNN's Tom Cohen contributed to this report

Filed under: Polls • Syria
soundoff (233 Responses)
  1. wonfish

    Something else Bush screwed up. Taking us into an unnecessary war in Iraq had made our allies skittish. Now that there is a real menace, no one will help us. And yes, when there are innocent people around the world being killed by the maniacal leader, it is our responsiblity to come to their aid.

    August 30, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  2. codebliz

    Half?!?! What happened to 80% oppose intervention. I guess by dinner type it will be "America supports intervention by 100%".

    All joking aside, no one supports this except the industrial military complex and some big oil companies. Which I guess these days is all that matters.

    August 30, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  3. kbcoss

    your poll seems skewed compared to others.

    90% are against military action... yet you say 50%.
    whats up with that ? Obama protection ? selective truth ?

    August 30, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  4. Ray

    Kerry plays a terrible De Niro, and where is Dustin Hoffman when you need him?

    The movie "Wag the Dog" is a much better charade than the one we are currently watching.

    August 30, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  5. Michael

    We have ZERO reason to intervene in Syria. The first question that needs to be asked if some politician supports an attack on Syria is, "Then what?" The past decade should be a clear indicator of what can happen when you stick your nose into someone else's internal affairs. Vietnam should be a reminder of what happens when you have no-nothing politicians (on BOTH sides) driving a war for money without an exit strategy. The POTUS really needs to listen to the Joint Cheifs of Staff before even considering what some politician, who receives millions from the Military Industrial Complex, to have a say in hte matter. I saw a poll saying that only 25% of Americans support intervention. Let those people go fight ... see how quick they change their spots.

    August 30, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  6. kcp

    It is easy to act like a dictator by not listening to your citizens and destroying your country's value and infecting your personal wishes on all those you select regardless of the outcome .. Assad has done this

    August 30, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  7. The law

    We have given up enough life and money. Let it ride, let the UN deal with it. It's their job.

    August 30, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  8. just saying

    the time for military action has long passed. there are windows of opportunity for such actions. that window closed long ago. obama is too clueless to know and understand these things. when you lead from behind and talk for two years, you lose these sorts of choices. now, two year later, there is only the opportunity to make things much worse by getting involved. if we get involved just to do something then obama is an even bigger fool than i already thought him to be.

    August 30, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  9. The law

    Also this poll is BS, it's more like 85 percent say stay out of this civil war..

    August 30, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  10. fooled once, never again

    Currently the basis of sound legal advice seems to be eluding some of the brightest legal minds, including US State Dept Attorneys. CNN Middle East just posed a question to a State Dept Attorney who advised that the US would act illegally if it took unilateral action against Syria without UN sanction, yet CNN Anchors asked, "is there no other law to use?". It seems we may have forgotten the legal formula used by the Allies during the Second World war trials at Nuremburg, where US Military tribunals were tasked with trying Nazis for crimes against humanity and whose defence was they were only following national laws. The tribunal acted on the the premise that there were higher laws......the laws of God to try cases on matters of crimes against humanity. Surely this principle though 70 years old is still as relevant today to protect innocent civilians.
    Ass Prof. Peter DArcy based in the Middle East

    To which I answer.... God started this, let Him sort it out. The USA should not be playing world policeman and we certainly should not be interfering in His plans and workings.

    To quote my hero Dirty Harry.... "a man has got to know his limitations."

    August 30, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  11. Tdog

    Gotta love CNN "polls" where they don't state how many people, where these supposed people lived, how the questions were phrased, or anything that would lend credence to the claim of 50% of americans. They like took the poll in the CNN news room

    August 30, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  12. crossbreed

    I'm an American and no one asked me how I feel about the US going to war with Syria?it should read more like: out of the two people that we polled, half of them were against going to war with syria...

    August 30, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  13. Larry L

    This is a scenario where we actually should get a recorded vote from our Congress – to engage with direct military intervention or not. The slimy weasels in the Congress like nothing better than to sit back and let the President make the tough decisions then they take the opposite position – depending on the political winds. Let them stand up and be counted – either way.

    August 30, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  14. Ron

    I watched the PBS Newhour interview with President Obama on Wednesday. He said our national interests is preventing chemical weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists. We know there are terrorist groups in the rebel camps. So if we attack the Assad regime, and this weakens Assad to the point that the rebels overthrow him, we are basically allowing the chemical weapons to fall into the hands of the terrorists, which is exactly the opposite goal of our national interests. We know from his track record that Assad has kept a lid on his chemical weapons (no terrorists have gotten any from him). So it seems that from a national interest perspective, our best move is to support the Assad regime. After all, his claim is that he is fighting terrorists, and after two years of war there are certainly terrorists in the rebel camps. Our best move right now would be to support Assad and tell the world that while we support government changes, we only support changes through peaceful means, not through violence. Sorry, rebels, but you get thrown to the dogs now.

    August 30, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  15. Rudy NYC

    Larry L

    This is a scenario where we actually should get a recorded vote from our Congress – to engage with direct military intervention or not. The slimy weasels in the Congress like nothing better than to sit back and let the President make the tough decisions then they take the opposite position – depending on the political winds. Let them stand up and be counted – either way.
    I agree. They're demanding a vote. The only thing actually stopping a vote is the House scheduling one and voting on it.

    August 30, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  16. Tom

    I don't believe it. I think it's higher than half.

    August 30, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  17. Renee

    I don't think that using a military strike against Syria will help. No matter how narrow action in response to chemical weapons attack, the action is going to war and the war will be have the consequence. We are American, we need to keep in peace around world!!!!

    August 30, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  18. eyesalve

    Can somebody please tell me why chemical weapons are that much worse than Tomahawk cruise missiles? Also are chemical weapons worse that torturing, dismembering and then cannibalizing?

    August 30, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  19. Theo

    "Half of all Americans say they oppose possible U.S. military action against Syria, according to a new national poll."

    What ? more like 95% against military action

    Sad day for news, they delete comments, skew info

    I know this war will make cnn money but at what cost to the country

    August 30, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  20. Jim

    "Half oppose military action against Syria"

    More like 90-95% opposed

    August 30, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  21. Kenman

    Just goes to show you how uninformed much of the public is. If only 20% think it's in our national interest and only 27% thinks will improve the situation for Syrian civilians, WHY ON EARTH would we risk stirring up the hornet's nest of Arab retaliation?

    And did the respondents understand that it would be Obama going it alone in this reckless endeavor!, since he (nor Hillary as Sec. of State during the last 2 1/2 years of this atrocity) could form any coalition with allies!?

    August 30, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  22. Kenman

    Have you already turned off this comment board, without noting it?

    August 30, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  23. cebundy

    And meanwhile our do-nothing congress remains on vacation.

    August 30, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  24. DaMenace1

    The United States needs to stay out of the Syrian conflict.
    We need to address the very serious domestic issues that are plaguing our Nation.

    August 30, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    OK, I'm only going to punch you once. So don't hit back and try to hurt me it will be over. I just want to show you who is boss. That's a new strategy. We are not the only people who know the difference between right and wrong. If the US cannot put together a strong coalition then we should leave it alone.

    August 30, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
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