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

    Gee, I wonder who CNN polled? I'm certainly not in favor of any action regarding Syria. After hearing yet another speech from Mr. Obama, I haven't been convinced that we need to do anything regarding Syria. It is a civil war. We do not have the support of the World community. US action against Syria will only bring the World community down on the US. Mr. Obama is like a dog with a bone, he just won't let go, and we are going to be enmeshed in yet another war. Add to that, he is not a diplomat, and a poor leader of what used to be the greatest country on earth.

    September 11, 2013 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  2. kirk

    Don't think it had a chance to change opinions, we generally accepted that Assad was guilty. He's got gop syndrome, keep telling yourself its the message not getting through when we got it the first time. Do all politicians think everyone is stupid?

    September 11, 2013 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  3. Name jk. Sfl. GOP conservatives,the garbage of America.

    We should back out president who seems to know what he's doing unlike the GOP obstructist idiots who back asseds right to gas his own children , GOP out in 2014 midterms!!!!!

    September 11, 2013 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  4. Princeton1991

    I'm as skeptical of the poll as I am of Assad and neither one really matters. What does matter to me isn't so much the security issue at stake but the moral position of governments, and their people, who may think gas warfare is a local problem in Syria and therefore affects no one else but them. If only 1400 dead people could explain the problem with the human race after last night.

    September 11, 2013 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  5. Eagle0432

    20% Republicans polled, 37% Democrats? Spin much?

    September 11, 2013 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  6. Lvsam

    I really want to see a poll limited to respondents who can point to Syria on a map.

    September 11, 2013 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  7. mark david

    There is no way that Obama is going to pull a George Bush on the American people. We've all learned from being fooled once.

    September 11, 2013 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  8. king

    these repubs are unbelievable, first they harassed the hell out of this president to strike Syria for the past 2 years, then when he decided to strike they harassed the hell out of him because he wanted to strike then decided not to vote for a strike, now he decided not to strike they are using words confusion saying all manner of evil against this president. when will the people of America figure out that every thing the repubs do is politics and nothing else. they have no policy nor vision for this country, all they have is opposition to everything this president does, and this is not good for the country,

    September 11, 2013 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  9. Gorj

    Military action? Yes. lets not go back what the Nazi did to the Jews before anyone noticed. What has happen is horrifying, We can not just turn our backs and say its not us.

    September 11, 2013 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  10. bence

    I voted for Obama. A real bad call

    September 11, 2013 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  11. Dean Borchert

    6 in 10 for Obama? Who is kidding who?
    More like 8 in 10 against Obama.

    Selective reporting at it's best I feel.

    September 11, 2013 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  12. larry kouns

    i might be more swayed by results of this so called poll if i didn't strongly suspect that the only people polled were cnn staffers.

    September 11, 2013 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  13. vr45

    There are two different aspects of war in Syria, Civil war and use of chemical weapons. Most Americans do not want to get involved in their civil war so also the administration. Use of and proliferation of chemical weapons is the second issue which needed to be addressed. POTUS clearly defined these two factors and sated his line of action. This was a good excuse to remove Syrian president and reduce Russian influence in the region which are the root causes of conflict.

    September 11, 2013 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  14. beevee

    The pollsters should have also asked whether those who opposed or disagreed with the president's speech are theo ones who are always against him no matter what he does and says. I think the president's speech is quite compelling as to why the US should wait until it is certain that the Syrian regime complies with what Putin (crook) had suggested about turning over the chemical warfare ammunition before resoring to military intervention without american boots on the ground.

    September 11, 2013 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  15. roserairie

    We needed to hear Obama last night but unfortunately it doesn't move me to change my opinion that we need to stay out of this middle eastern mess. One thing I was very upset about was Newt's comments after Obama's speech. CNN needs to find another commentary person. Newt brings nothing to the table.

    September 11, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  16. beenaroundyaknow

    Are you kidding me? Even your poll results are all over the place and contradictory. What program are your questioners asking about? Obama's or Putin's? You just can't help yourself to ask questions and report results in a way that supports this failure in leadership of a President.

    September 11, 2013 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  17. john Danko

    This administration has not given us honest answers concerning Bengazi, IRS, Eavesdropping of American citizens, Obamacare and Immigration so why should we believe anything now. Videos can be staged. The Middle East is a quagmire and we should stop being the world police force. Stay out of the Middle East.

    September 11, 2013 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  18. phynoxum

    I love how they need to make up surveys to make it seem like more people back the president's decision to go into Syria... Presidential address or not, the overwhelming majority of Americans do not support spending billions more on involvement in a civil war, with no clear objective in sight. Why would we spend more doing this when we already have "sequestration" forcing our government employees to take a day without pay. OUR COUNTRY NEEDS INTERVENTION, NOT SYRIA!!

    September 11, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  19. Data Driven

    So the answer is: yes, he moved the needle:

    "According to the poll, 61% said they support the president's position on Syria". He wasn't getting numbers like that before last night.

    September 11, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  20. What's in that tea anyway?

    The Tea Trolls like "just askin'" and others have some serious problems with a president that thinks before he rides this country into a conflict ....ala....bring 'em on, ....dead or alive.....ur either wit us or agin us.....misssion accomplished....i don't know where bin laden is and don't worry about it much...... Today of all days, we should say never again to that type of verbose....but rather strength and most of all wisdom

    September 11, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  21. D. Henson

    I watched the President's short speech last night. Prior to the speech I was 100% against strikes by us against Syria. I am still that way. President Obama tried to use the "children" as the reason we should strike. I stand with the President when it comes to using chemical attacks against civilians, especially children however, I disagree that we should be the ones to strike. There are plenty of Arab states that should be the ones to do this. We do not need to deepen the abyss when it comes to muslim nations view on the United States. President Obama stated "Syria has no way to reatliate against us" but, that doesn't mean the al-qaeda rebels in Syria will not plan something. It appears most Americans are torn morally on the issue of attacking Syria. On one hand we all think it is horrible thata chemical weapons were used against civilians and on the other hand we are tired of a decade of conflict thousands of miles away. We want the President to stay out of conflicts for awhile and rebuild our failing infrastructure. We want him to focus on the United States for the next decade not, get us into more conflicts. He made some valid points but, they were not strong enough to make us be the ones to strike. Hopefully, the russians plan works and the question of us striking Syria will be negated.

    September 11, 2013 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  22. Anonymous

    "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."

    Yeah the nation is split...about 70% AGAINST and 30% in favor. Come on CNN stop shilling for the Dems.

    September 11, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  23. Joan

    Really CNN. Polling 361 people is supposed to be representative of hundreds of millions of Americans. How many of those were on cell phones because that is how the vast majority of modern people connect now? Remember your instant polls after the presidential debates. They were so far off it was unbelievable. With modern technology perhaps the best polls should be done online. That way at least millions of people would have a chance to express their thoughts. The polls leading up to the presidential election were so skewed and misleading that it has turned most sensible people off of polls and those who preach them as gospel. How about reporting real facts and news instead of extrapolating numbers and speculating what they mean?

    September 11, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  24. Iggy

    We dont need this.

    September 11, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  25. tom

    Stand down and shut up we do not wan to go to war to save your ego.

    September 11, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
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