CNN Instant Poll: Did Obama move the needle on Syria?
September 10th, 2013
10:36 PM ET
7 months ago

CNN Instant Poll: Did Obama move the needle on Syria?

Washington (CNN) – A majority of Americans who watched President Barack Obama's prime time address to the nation on Tuesday said they favor the approach to Syria that the president spelled out in his speech, according to an instant poll.

But an exclusive CNN/ORC International survey of speech-watchers conducted immediately after the conclusion of Obama's address also indicates that those who tuned into the address were split on whether the president made the case for military action against Syria.

Sixty percent of those questioned said it was not in the national interests of the U.S. to be involved in the bloody two year old Syrian civil war, and more than half said the speech did not change their confidence in the president's leadership on military and international issues.

According to the poll, 61% said they support the president's position on Syria, with 37% saying they oppose his response to the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons against its own citizens.

The president said in his speech that he's asked congressional leaders "to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force" against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's military while diplomatic efforts to address the crisis continue. "It's too early to tell whether this offer will succeed, and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments," Obama said. "But this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force."

The poll indicates that nearly two-thirds of those who watched the speech think that the situation in Syria is likely to be resolved through diplomatic efforts, with 35% disagreeing.

But Obama said that he's ordered the U.S. military "to maintain their current posture to keep the pressure on Assad, and to be in a position to respond if diplomacy fails."

According to the poll, those who watched the president were divided on whether Obama made a convincing case in his speech for U.S. military action in Syria, with 47% saying he did and 50% saying he didn't.

The survey indicates that the speech didn't move the needle very much on whether U.S. air strikes against Syria would achieve significant goals for the U.S. Thirty percent of speech-watchers questioned before the address said yes. That number edged up to 36% following the address. And 39% said it was in the national interests of the U.S. to be involved in the conflict in Syria, edging up from 30% before the speech. Sixty percent said it was not in the national interests to get involved, down just five points from before the speech.

Fifty-two percent said following the speech that they were more confident of the president's leadership on military and international issues, with 16% saying they were less confident. But 52% said the speech did not change their opinion.

The sample of speech-watchers in the poll was 37% Democrats, 20% Republicans, and 43% independents. CNN's best estimate of the number of Democrats in the voting-age population as a whole indicates that the sample is about seven percentage points more Democratic than the general public.

The CNN poll was conducted immediately after the speech over the phone by ORC International with 361 adult Americans who watched the address. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus five percentage points.

soundoff (288 Responses)
  1. Guenther Thiedemann

    I feel the presidents speech was more campaining. His comment about sticking to our ideals and values was a joke. Isnt that what our constitution is? This is something he is truying to break down now. He uses the US when its in his advantage to do so. Otherwise he is bound by what our forefathers created (his own words). There have been over 100k people killed prior to this, and nothing was being done, now on an hunch we wants to go and drop bombs.

    September 11, 2013 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  2. Kyle H. Davis

    Wait... You can't really simply write a headline of "CNN poll: 6 in 10 back Obama" – simply because people are now in favor of his new approach. His approach 24 hours ago was unwavering belief in the use of military. Even this speech does not clearly define what his views are. He's flip flopping faster than Kerry on crack.

    September 11, 2013 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  3. melanieb.

    He moved the needle right into a WWIII with a hot bed for terrorism Syria. The man has no clue on what he is doing & he is making it worse by yapping about one thing then turning around & saying something completely different than the last speech. He should not be able to work the toll booth let alone run a country.

    September 11, 2013 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  4. sgreco

    "Sixty percent of those questioned said it was not in the national interests of the U.S. to be involved in the bloody two year old Syrian civil war"

    It wasnt in our national interests to invade and occupy Iraq but that didnt stop Bush. And he didnt consult America or react to polls, either.

    September 11, 2013 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  5. De

    I think we should NOT strike Syira. We are opening ourselfs up to another mess!

    September 11, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  6. Joi Gibson

    Does CNN purposely try to obfuscate and confuse? The needle did move. I caught an exchange last night when John King was reading the polls and he said basically no, the needle had not moved, and the panelists (Anne-Marie Slaughter, Fareed Zakaria, Andrew Sullivan, and Christiane Amanpour) practically came out of their seats saying the needle had in fact moved. So what is the point of this exercise by CNN? I am beginning to wonder if anyone in the news media is capable of reporting the news objectively. Listening to Morning Joe and all the opinion writers in the major newspapers just bashed the President. Well, aren't they oh so lucky to be Monday-morning quarterbacks and not actually have to make REAL decisions. And Mr. War Monger himself John McCain and his faithful sidekick Lindsey Graham are oh so disappointed that the President did not make a case for full-fledged military involvement. Sweet Jesus, if that man had been elected president, we would be in Syria right now. While I do not think we should be anywhere near Syria, I support our President in these times of great human suffering and knowing that for the U.S., military intervention is a really bad option, even if it hurts our hearts not to do so. My mother always said to me, you cannot help someone else until you can help yourself. Right now we need to get our house in order. Let Vlad take care of it since he thinks he's the man. Russia has more of an interest in this conflict than we do and from what I understand, even he is not happy with Assad.

    Stay strong Mr. President!!!!

    September 11, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  7. Ancient Texan

    Does anyone even listen to him anymore?

    September 11, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  8. Mark

    I don't know of a single person who favors this action. Who exactly are you polling, CNN?

    September 11, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  9. Jams Flori

    I I think President Obama was persuasive in his speech last night. I understand the fears of those who oppose the action, but their arguments are, to my mind, less persuasive than his.

    September 11, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  10. tom l

    What if John Kerry hadn't made that blunder?

    September 11, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  11. Silence DoGood

    Peaceful progressives need to call him on his military approach. Did you notice he listed Iraq and Afghanistan making a war weary nation. But his own targeted campaigns in Libya and Pakistan that would be most like Syria simply didn't happen.

    Well I remember the US bombing people there by Obama's command and I am tired of that too!

    September 11, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  12. Wilson

    Some are waking up. Though I fear it is, "to little, to late," to save the country. There are still way to many koolaide drinkers and "gimmee my free stuff" people, i.e. looters and moochers.
    $

    September 11, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  13. Bruce Minor

    Why is your poll sampling weighted with 7% democrats. Are you getting political favors for reporting in favor of Obama?

    September 11, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  14. john kerrigan

    He has two big cans of worms. No matter which one he opens, he'll piss a lot of people off. This is what the British call " a sticky wicket."

    September 11, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  15. ideket

    Obama conveniently forgot to mention Saddam Hussein's use of poison gas against the Kurds in 1988, which killed thousands.

    Petty, petty politics.

    September 11, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  16. Tony

    Fifty-two percent said following the speech that they were more confident of the president's leadership on military and international issues, with 16% saying they were less confident. But 52% said the speech did not change their opinion.

    52+16+52= 120.

    September 11, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  17. Rudy NYC

    You have to love the rantings of Pres. Obama's critics. They accuse the president of not "making the case" for military action against Syria. Critics cast him as not showing any leadership, in general. But. But, when he goes around the country to make his case to the public, he's campaigning. When Pres. Obama makes his point on such occasions, he's accused of being sophmoric, naive, incompetent, and you name it.

    All of which means that, given the 15 minutes that he was allotted, he did a good job explaining to the American people: what is going on in Syria and who the key players are; how Syria reached this point, what is likely to lie ahead for Syria: what the connection is between Syria and U.S. national security interests; what the Russians had just proposed to do and the apparent acceptance by Syria; and why he was going to give diplomacy a shot before using military action.

    September 11, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  18. Rudy NYC

    Joi Gibson wrote:

    ... ... ... I am beginning to wonder if anyone in the news media is capable of reporting the news objectively. Listening to Morning Joe and all the opinion writers in the major newspapers just bashed the President. ... ... ...
    ------------------
    The media seems to have taken a new regard for the president following the controversies between the administration and the Associated Press. It seems the many in the media have been looking for negative things to say, stir up controversy, sow discord, and mischaracterize the president as a whole. Personally, I think John King was given a narrative to follow. He would have said the same stuff no matter what was said in the speech.

    September 11, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  19. Cunamara

    The humanitarian aspect of the Syrian crisis demands intervention by people of faith and good conscience. That intervention is probably best served by provision of food, water, sanitation, temporary housing, medicine and doctors and nurses. We are our brothers' (and sisters') keepers.

    The problem with military intervention is that the only goals that can be achieved in this way are destruction; after the prolonged discussion that has gone on, Assad and his henchmen have had plenty of time to move and secure their assets, rendering air strikes pretty much useless. History has shown that external intervention in these situations produces unintended consequences that are as bad or worse than the original problems- look at Korea, Viet Nam, Israel/Palestine and Iraq. The Assad regime is reprehensible, but the rebels trying to overthrown him are jihadists and Islamists who will be as bad if not worse. We cannot support either side in good conscience. The best limited outcome that could be achieved would be the Assad regime surrendering its chemical weapons; from the military perspective we must be content with that.

    We would be better off helping first and foremost with the humanitarian crisis, alleviating the suffering of those displaced by the violence. Kindness wins hearts and minds far more effectively than violence.

    September 11, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  20. Fair is Fair

    Going in, I was behind his initial decision. The only question was would he talk me out of it. I'm still behind his initial decision, but that was quite the lackluster effort last night. You can tell he really doesn't favor military action. And that's OK.

    September 11, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  21. Pam

    Instead of listening I think people are going into it with their original opinions and not listening. I think his original thoughts and plans, the reason why we need to see how Russia's plans may go and what we will do if Russia & Syrias plans don't work out were addressed.

    September 11, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  22. Data Driven

    @Cunamara,

    From your fingers to the President's eyes.

    I could not agree more with you. Great comment.

    September 11, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  23. Michael Thomas

    I actually agree that Syria is an issue and does need to be addressed. What most Americans unfortunately don't really grasp the concept of is that a limited strike is not a full out war. One of the things we do best in this country is the development of Military Arms Countries from around the world Buy up all our old and Obsolete equipment because it's still better than what most other countries have. All it takes for a Bad person to win is for a Good Person to sit back and do nothing. That's the case here. I understand the Nay Sayers position. But I hope that one day when your in need you don't have a Nay Sayer walking by that could of very well helped you but chose not to. Just think about that.

    September 11, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  24. Rudy NYC

    Tony

    Fifty-two percent said following the speech that they were more confident of the president's leadership on military and international issues, with 16% saying they were less confident. But 52% said the speech did not change their opinion.

    52+16+52= 120.
    ---------------------
    You are adding up results from two different questions. Of course, it can total to more than 100.

    September 11, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  25. mndudester

    What's plan "B"?

    September 11, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
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