The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Aug. 29-Sept. 1 among 1,000 adults, finds that Obama has significant ground to make up in his own party. Just 29 percent of Democrats favor conducting airstrikes against Syria while 48 percent are opposed. Opinion among independents is similar (29 percent favor, 50 percent oppose). Republicans are more divided, with 35 percent favoring airstrikes and 40 percent opposed.
The public has long been skeptical of U.S. involvement in Syria, but an April survey found more support than opposition to the idea of a U.S.-led military response if the use of chemical weapons was confirmed. The new survey finds both broad concern over the possible consequences of military action in Syria and little optimism it will be effective.
Three-quarters (74 percent) believe that U.S. airstrikes in Syria are likely to create a backlash against the United States and its allies in the region and 61 percent think it would be likely to lead to a long-term U.S. military commitment there. Meanwhile, just 33 percent believe airstrikes are likely to be effective in discouraging the use of chemical weapons; roughly half (51 percent) think they are not likely to achieve this goal.
Even for those who think Assad is guilty of the attacks, as many oppose as support U.S. military involvement (41 percent each).
Overall, just 32 percent of Americans say Obama has explained clearly why the U.S. should launch military airstrikes against Syria while 48 percent say he has not explained the reasons clearly enough.
Men are twice as likely as women to favor U.S. military airstrikes against Syria. Among men, nearly as many favor (39 percent) as oppose (46 percent) the proposed military action. Among women, just 19 percent support airstrikes, while 49 percent are opposed. Women are more uncertain about what to do at this point – 31 percent offer no opinion compared with just 15 percent of men.
Americans paid more attention to the Syrian developments than other stories this week, including news about the health care laws (23 percent very closely), wildfires in California (20 percent) and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington (20 percent). About one-in-10 (nine percent) very closely followed the news about the NFL’s agreement with former players about concussion-related injuries.