WaPo: Syria Intervention is Less Popular than Congress

Max Fisher of the Washington Post points to a new poll showing only 9% of respondents approve of military intervention in Syria, despite recent news that chemical weapons may have been used by Bashar al-Assad against his own people.

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll has finally found something that Americans like even less than Congress: the possibility of U.S. military intervention in Syria. Only 9 percent of respondents said that the Obama administration should intervene militarily in Syria; a RealClearPolitics poll average finds Congress has a 15 percent approval rating, making the country’s most hated political body almost twice as popular.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was taken Aug.19-23, the very same week that horrific reports emerged strongly suggesting that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons against his own people, potentially killing hundreds or even thousands of civilians. If there were ever a time that Americans would support some sort of action, you’d think this would be it. But this is the lowest support for intervention since the poll began tracking opinion on the issue. The survey also found that 60 percent oppose intervention outright, with the rest, perhaps sagely, saying that they don’t know.

Strangely, 25 percent said that they support intervention if Assad uses chemical weapons. I say strangely because the United States announced that it believed Assad had done exactly this. A large share of people who answered that the United States should intervene if Assad uses chemical weapons are apparently unaware that this line has already been crossed. Presumably, some number of these people would drop their support if they realized the question was no longer hypothetical.

By the transitive property, this means that, according to another poll highlighted by the Washington Post’s WonkBlog, military intervention in Syria is also less popular than lice, root canals, colonoscopies, Nickelback, used car salesmen, and even Genghis Khan.

On a more serious note, I wonder if anyone has aggregated public opinion polling data to show whether support for armed conflict tends to fall over time (as I would guess that, in most cases, it probably does, but I could be wrong). If that’s the trend, then a 9% approval at the outset would look even worse than it already does.

Then again, though, we wouldn’t want to get blown off course by the fluctuations in public opinion polls…

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