King: Poll complicating Obama's case on Syria
September 9th, 2013
10:28 AM ET
11 months ago

King: Poll complicating Obama's case on Syria

Washington (CNN) - President Obama's high-stakes sales pitch on Syria this week is complicated by two powerful forces of public opinion: most Americans don't think there is a vital U.S. national security interest at stake, and don't believe military strikes will achieve any significant goal for the United States.

The skepticism drives the deep opposition to military strikes seen in a new CNN/ORC poll released Monday: 59% of Americans oppose a congressional resolution authorizing military action in Syria. And if Congress fails to pass such a resolution, 71% of Americans say they would oppose the president launching strikes anyway.

President Obama is taking the lead this week trying to sway public opinion, knowing a boost in the polls would change what at the moment is an extraordinarily difficult vote count in Congress. Six television interviews Monday and a nationally televised address Tuesday are the big pieces of the president's plan.

In those appearances, it is clear the biggest challenge is the profound underlying skepticism about another U.S. military commitment in the Middle East.

In our new poll, 72% of Americans say strikes would not achieve significant goals for the United States, and 69% say use of force in Syria is not in the U.S. national interest.

A deeper look shows how the president's biggest problem is with Republicans and self-described independents, meaning he is trying to persuade people who are already inclined to oppose the president on many or most issues.

For example, six in 10 Democrats say strikes would not achieve any significant goals for the United States. But 74% of independents believe that, and 83% of Republicans.

And while 56% of the president's fellow Democrats don't see intervening in Syria as being in the U.S.'s national interest, that number spikes to 76% among independents and 71% of Republicans.

So the president is not only losing the political "right" in this debate, the skepticism is also quite deep in the middle of the political spectrum.

In a nutshell, it is proving difficult for the president to win support, post-Iraq war especially, if people think the challenge isn't a top U.S. security challenge, and on top of that believe what the president is planning won't change things for the better and could become more of a long-term mess.


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Data Driven

    So it seems that about 20% of "non-Democrats" will not support this President no matter what he does or no matter how worthy the cause. Basically, they're the rigid "tea party" base.

    Well, I don't support a strike either, but, unlike the fanatical "tea partiers" who carry copies of the Constitution in their hip pockets, I am at least appreciative that Obama has acted in a Constitutional manner by submitting his case to Congress.

    September 9, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  2. Fair is Fair

    Polls schmolls. We're a representative democracy. Force the congress to vote. If your representative didn't vote the way you wanted, take the appropriate action at the ballot box.

    September 9, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  3. don in albuquerque

    We need to stay out of Syria, in fact we need to get out of the middle east completely. That would include our "good" buddies the Saudi's. No weapons, no financial aid of any type for anything, and we need to tell our oil companies the free ride is over. We are finished having tax payers pay for your private armies. You need an army? You recruit and you pay. I could care less if Iran declared war on Conoco-Phillips. And time for Israel to put on their big boy pants and take care of their own problems.

    September 9, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  4. tom l

    @Data,
    Surely you recognize that there are about 20% of "non-Republicans" that would not support President Bush no matter what he did or no matter how worthy the cause. Basically, they're the rigid hard core liberal base. Please note that there are still some of those people today who will say that he was not really elected president and lost the election against Gore.

    September 9, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  5. ST

    I can't understand why they media is focusing on taking Polls instead of explaining to people what advantages/disadvantages of war. For god's sake what every civilian knows is: anything called "war" is bad.

    September 9, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  6. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair

    Polls schmolls. We're a representative democracy. Force the congress to vote. If your representative didn't vote the way you wanted, take the appropriate action at the ballot box.
    ------------------–
    How do you want your representative to vote? I want mine to vote "yes" and "no" at the same time.

    September 9, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  7. Gurgyl

    War is bad. Let middle east meddle.

    September 9, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  8. tom l

    Can I ask why we were able to find out exactly what has happened in Syria with regards to using chemical weapons yet it's been a year and we still don't know what exactly happened in Benghazi.

    September 9, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  9. Winston Smith

    The next time any politician, or minions thereof start spewing the oft heard chant that the country is broke (without funds to meet current obligations), I'm going to laugh in their faces. If we (the people of the U.S.), are so broke where's the money coming from to fund all of these foreign excursions? Ask yourself this the next time you think of it. You'll be hard pressed to come up with an answer that makes any sense. We've all been lied to, and corporate America, loves it.

    September 9, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  10. Tony in Maine

    What bothers me most about polls like this is that most respondents are either illinformed, misinformed or uniformed. The polls are designed to elicit a specific response: Would it bother you if cruise missiles were responsible for the death of a pregnant mother of 8 out foraging for food so her youngest wouldn't die of starvation.? A yes indicates that the respondent doesn't want cruise missiles. Polls are used to bolster a preconceived notion.

    Let me be clear about this – to imitate a politician – I don't think cruise missiles are going to stop Assad, but I think some action is necessary.

    I do think that the Arab world led by by the Saudis and joined by the Turks (who are not Arab) should use some of the American military might that we have sold or given them. It's not just for parades.

    I also know that the Saudis in particular never dirty their own hands with work and being the designated mercenary to do their bidding really bothers me.

    September 9, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  11. Rudy NYC

    tom l

    Can I ask why we were able to find out exactly what has happened in Syria with regards to using chemical weapons yet it's been a year and we still don't know what exactly happened in Benghazi.
    ------------------–
    We do know exactly what happened in Benghazi. Were not sure as to who did it, and where their weapons came from.

    September 9, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  12. robertholt

    "Oh, Scarlett, don't worry. The war will be over in a few weeks and I'll be coming home."

    September 9, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  13. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Polls are nice...aren't they?
    Anyhwoo..
    We have a right to voice our opinion one way or another.
    I know I have.
    But the bottom line is that a decision such as this has already been made when we – via our elected leader- signed the document that said that the use of chemical weapons is banned.
    We cna jump up and down and pull our hair out or cheer the President's decision, but we have to recognize that some things are out of our scope of vision or complete grasp of the situation.
    I trust our President to act responsibly and conscientiously in this delicate situation.
    You can poll until the cows come home....

    September 9, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  14. ST

    @tom I
    Are you asking what happened in Benghazi comparing in Syria? May I ask you: Where have you been? Do you watch news? They have been more frequently in Fox News all those burning buildings in Benghazi repeating themselves like flowing water. There was yesterday a video which shows what happened in Syria (chemical attack). Haven't you see all these?

    September 9, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  15. voice of r3ason

    to the president and this administration.... Stop trying to market a war. We are not interested in a continues sales campaign!!!

    September 9, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  16. tom l

    @Rudy,
    "We do know exactly what happened in Benghazi. Were not sure as to who did it, and where their weapons came from"

    I enjoy our exchanges as you are level headed and are very reasonable when we have disagreements. But your statement is one big contradiction. We do know what happened but we're not sure who did or where the weapons came from means that we do NOT know what happened in Benghazi. I just find it so highly ironic (and I believe there is a major cover up here) that we're able to find out exactly what happened in a country we're not in but in a country where we are (Libya) we still don't know who or how they got the weapons. Oh, and there hasn't been one person that has been interviewed by the press who was there at the time of the attack.
    Aren't you the least bit suspicious of our govt when they can't give us some information from Benghazi yet they can from Syria? Why can't they find that out? The real is answer is they know exactly what happened they just haven't told the American people what happened.

    September 9, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  17. Lynda/Minnesota

    Dominican mama: "You can poll until the cows come home...."

    Yes, well, polls are the holy grail of politics. Or something.

    At any rate, you got a laugh out of me.

    September 9, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  18. Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair

    Polls schmolls. We're a representative democracy. Force the congress to vote. If your representative didn't vote the way you wanted, take the appropriate action at the ballot box.
    ------–
    How do you want your representative to vote? I want mine to vote "yes" and "no" at the same time.
    --------
    I've called my rep's office and encouraged a "yes" vote. Way to sit on the fence, Rudy.

    September 9, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  19. Joan

    Since polls are just a tiny, tiny sample of the population, can be skewed any way the pollsters want and have been proven over and over to be terribly inaccurate and wrong, it seems that the media is doing a disservice to this whole issue. By spouting these polls over and over as if they are gospel truth, they are just giving talking points, probably false, for Assad to use. More and more it is evident that the media in their quest to be controversial and raise ratings are sometimes using dangerous and misleading tactics. If the US doesn't attack Syria and then he gets more ruthless, the media better shut the heck up.

    September 9, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  20. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    @ voice of r3ason (cute, treason):
    "Stop trying to market a war".
    -------------------------------------------------
    Where, besides Faux, do you see us going to war with boots on the ground and already 2,000 American men and women in uniform dead?
    Stop spinning.

    September 9, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  21. Robert Lemasters

    Most citizens do not support military action in Syria, but there is much more to this, most citizens no longer trust or support any of our government policies or our cadre of career politician elected government based on the fact that every action and policy these many past decades have ended in failures, catastrophic failures and have proven to be incompetent, criminal or foolish and definitely not in the best interests of our families, communities, states and Republic. We have a ruling class that is out of touch with Main Street and they are going to pay for their criminality and incompetence one way or another, now or later but they have much to answer for and answer they will, bet on it.

    September 9, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  22. Gurgyl

    Why not we bombard this Assad face with Drones? Just do it–that part of region needs.

    September 9, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  23. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Lynda/Minnesota

    Dominican mama: "You can poll until the cows come home...."

    Yes, well, polls are the holy grail of politics. Or something.

    At any rate, you got a laugh out of me
    -------------------------------------------------
    I'm worn out by this whole thing and the useless debate over it.
    We're going in guys. We have to.
    No boots on the ground but something is going to get blown to smithereens. Likely collateral damage. Other nations standing silently by giving us the nod. But...WE are going in Lynda.
    Inevitable. It is just a matter of how and when.
    I will reiterate that I wish we too could join the punks so-called leaders of the world on the sidelines and let someone else step up and honor the red line that they drew when they signed that agreement....
    And yet, I can't help but feel a certain pride in being the one country – the ONLY country- that says "Enough, you've f'd up and crossed the line and we're not going to stand by and let you get away with it".
    The military action we take Lynda may or not be enough but it will surely say that we're NOT okay with innocents being gassed to death.
    That's worth something to me.

    September 9, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  24. Fair is Fair

    Gurgyl

    Why not we bombard this Assad face with Drones? Just do it–that part of region needs.
    ------–
    Because it's a lot easier for the "enemy" to shoot down a drone than it is for them to shoot down a missle. Drones are "search and destroy" weapons whereas missles strike pre-programmed targets. Any other questions?

    September 9, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  25. George Cook

    Let's see now IF Mr. Obama can make the TUFF Decisions as leader of this great country.....Panning it off ot Congress...altho legally correct...is just a move to "share the blame' IF things don't go right.

    September 9, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
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