CNN Instant Poll: Did Obama move the needle on Syria?
September 10th, 2013
10:36 PM ET
1 year 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. krehator

    I'm sure Fox news has a different take on the polls, but then again they are not trustworthy either. I can see it now "Fox Poll says 99.9999% against Obama". lol

    September 11, 2013 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  2. Dan Slaby

    Retaliation is not the answer. The first step is to have the International Criminal Court in Hague to indict Assad with crimes against humanity and issue a warrant for his arrest. The warrant for his arrest will enable the US and others in the international community to make arrangements for his apprehension. The arrest warrant should inform Assad that further use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.

    Our involvement needs to be a working relationship with Russia under UN mandate to secure and remove the chemical weapons that will end up in the hands of terrorist groups, and inflict casualties in Moscow as well as New York, let alone Israel and other moderate Arab nations. We have a national interest to insure that these stockpiles of chemical weapons are properly destroyed. Russia needs to recall these chemical weapons that it sold to Syria.

    There needs to be a stand-in governing body ready to take control over the country when Assad is arrested composed of the Syrian Army and insurgents. Furthermore, there needs to be a mechanism for the UN to take control over the chemical weapons in Syria which may include Special Ops to coordinate security at Syrian military depots with the Syrian military to return the chemical weapons for disposal. The simplistic bomb and run, or no-fly zone, does not stop rockets with chemical weapons. Too many armchair warriors have no idea of the complexity of fighting in a theater where the enemy uses chemical weapons. Assad did not use chemical weapons because President Obama is waffling; he used chemical weapons against a failed rebel assassination attempt and to warn against an Israeli attack (or joint American-Israeli) on securing his chemical weapon stockpiles. An attack on Syria may involve a Syrian response of chemical rockets on Turkey, Jordan, Israel and refugee camps.

    I trust President Obama to weight the consequences of any action before implementing any decision, including ignoring the saber rattling of the press looking for a sensational story. President Obama is the most competent Commander in Chief I've known; a President whose courage to remain silent before his accusers while contemplating the advice of his commanders, balancing the military cost against political reality, and always putting country before politics. He is respected by those he respects for the bravery, duty and honor in serving this nation faithfully.

    September 11, 2013 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  3. Namegreg

    It needs to be be done!

    September 11, 2013 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  4. Aye

    361 samples out of 316 MILLION+?? and the large percentage difference between left, right anf center? Sorry, you don't have to have a graduate degree in statistics to know that's just silly and useless. Sorry CNN, I watch you but this is stupid bordering on misinformation.

    September 11, 2013 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  5. Name

    I'm behind the president and the decisions and choices he makes.

    September 11, 2013 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  6. jennifer wolfe

    Eliminate Newt Gingrich from your forums. He is irrelevant. He couldn't make it running for president, yet you are holding him up as some sort of knowledgeable paragon. Really? Find someone who is knowledgeable and credible. Jennifer

    September 11, 2013 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  7. GB

    How can you support ineptitude? Would not want this man leading a war. He's essentially been castrated for the next three years. Let's watch the congress beat him up.

    September 11, 2013 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  8. Nina Hall

    If you witness bullying, you REPORT it to the proper authorities but you don't bash the bully. If the proper authorities don't do anything about it, then you go higher, until something is done. Where is the UN in all this? Where is there a coalition? Why are we going 'solo'?

    September 11, 2013 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  9. Elucidated Mysteries

    I think what happened was, like most of us, we were moved by the video of people dying horribly. Then we wanted to rush to their aid.

    Then we remebered that the rebels are made up of various factions, some militant islamist, and that if we assist the rebels, we might empower a fascist islamist state in Syria.

    So we have to maintain the illusion of sympathy for those civilians caught in the crossfie, while distancing ourselves from involvement, no0t to mention to strong diplomatic ties Syria has with Russia and Iran.

    We don't want to repeat history and be brought into a world war over alliances with smaller countries and their skirmishes.

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

    I back president Obama 100%

    September 11, 2013 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  11. Mike

    Please remind the world: even Adolph Hitler did not gas his opponents IN THEIR OWN HOMES.

    September 11, 2013 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  12. Socrates

    I have seen this movie so many times that I will not comment.

    September 11, 2013 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  13. Clifford Gonsalves

    sorry, our president could not convince me at all. This is the same president who bad mouths about going Iraq when Saddam gas poisoned more than million but Assad did only few hundreds. Also, I'm originally from Muslim world, so I understand their mentality which most of the Americans don't understand. Muslims call non-Muslims infidels and they are going to retaliate from both sides if we go in because its an issue amongst sunnis and shiites, and they don't want us. Afghanistan and Iraq were justified bcoz, they came and attacked us but here we can only sympathise but can't get involved unless UN asks us for help. Obama should stick to his campaign slogans and focus on economy which is in bad shape. $ value is constantly falling and federal employees did have a raise for 3 years now. If Obama goes to war then he becomes the most devilish president after Woodrow Wilson..

    September 11, 2013 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  14. Anonymous

    WE NEED TO ATTACK SYRIA. THE DAY WHEN SOME ONE DROPS A CHEMICAL WEAPON IN THE USA, IT WOULD BE TOO LATE. TIME TO STOP SYRIA BY BLOWING THOSE CHEMICAL WEAPON

    let's no be chicken, Russia will hide all the true and pretending there are in track...

    September 11, 2013 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  15. Citizen Spade

    As an independent thinker, I have to agree with Mr. McCain about Mr. Obama's Syria policy and foreign policy in general. Mr. Obama's policy has been reactionary throughout his time in office. For Mr. Obama and the US to take any form of credit for the diplomacy that occurred on this issue is a farce. He did not lead the US or the international community. He did not take a stand. He deferred any responsibility to the Congress. Although Mr. Obama did not create the international credibility gap that the US now bears, he has done significantly more to subvert respect for US foreign policy in a more subtle and dangerous way than any terrorist attack or overt aggression can every do. To lead on the international stage, there has to be some aspect of being proactive. The Mr. Obama cannot stand back while the international community solves problems and then swoop in and take credit for something that at most he had a tangential role in.

    September 11, 2013 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  16. Professor Kenneth Maly

    Dear CNN,
    As a newspaper reporter, do you get to decide whether a jump from 30% to 39% is "merely" EDGING UP? Sometimes CNN reports a 3% change as "significant"–now suddenly a 9% change is interpreted as "edging up"? Please be more careful.
    Kenneth Maly

    September 11, 2013 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  17. Dvet

    Try diplomacy first, vote on the strike still, and watch syria comply. Russia will join nato against syria for noncompliance. Gameover.

    September 11, 2013 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  18. Keith Whittingslow

    A colossal mistake, hiring Newt Gingrich for CNN News Dept. Send Gingrich over to Fox where he belongs. Too bad for many like me who now will no longer watch CNN. I will miss Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer, et al. I must now rely solely on MSNBC for high quality intelligent news broadcasts. I refuse to watch the red neck, right wing reactionary Gingrich. This is a major error at CNN. You will lose a huge audience with this blunder. Let me know if you get rid of Newt and I will once again watch CNN.

    September 11, 2013 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  19. Caleb Blackburn

    Atrocities take place all over the world all the time. Why is it so important to engage this one in particular? The majority of Americans DO NOT want to get involved because we know it's just a preamble. No doubt about it. The economy cannot handle the war when this escalates! $85 Billion a month from the federal reserve. $1.02 Trillion a year of printing money out of thin air to stay afloat in our current dilemma. How much money will we authorize for war if it does spin out of control? Does anybody know the cause of inflation? Commodities futures should be gravy right now. blah blah blah

    September 11, 2013 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  20. VicMorrow

    Obama must think we are stupid. The American people rejected his warmongering. The international community rejected his warmongering. Then Putin cut the ground out from under him. So he spins spins spins to try to make it sound like he was out ahead of the issue all the time. But he wasn't, and everyone knows it.

    September 11, 2013 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  21. Sean

    Those are horrible numbers seeing that most of the few hours are his supporters.

    September 11, 2013 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  22. pritam arora

    ihave listened speech by President & appreciate the stand,measures 2 stop use of cmemical weapons ,without using force& save humanity along with discussion with other super powers, but right action b taken soon & stop Assad from further adventures 2 play up with lives.

    September 11, 2013 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
  23. Light

    We have the Power to change, before it's too late. Most shall not pass, through the doorway to Peace ...

    September 11, 2013 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  24. DaMav

    "Those who watched the speech" means a sample of people in the tank for Obama

    September 11, 2013 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  25. gorgegirl

    I've thought about this long and hard – I sure don't want us to get into any more Iraq type wars, but when we don't just suspect chemical weapons & WMD's like in Iraq, but KNOW that the guy has them and has used them against his own people, we need to take out his delivery systems so he can't use them on his people.
    Yes, that is why we are the mightiest country in the world and those who are weaker depend on us to help them. It is time to help the Syrian people so they can continue their civil war and topple Assad.
    But I don't want us involved in anymore regime changes and "democracy building". We have things to work on at home.

    September 11, 2013 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
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