Why President Obama needs Congress on Syria — in 3 poll numbers

September 3, 2013

President Obama's surprising decision to seek Congressional approval for a military strike against Syria is a major risk given the uncertainty of passage for the resolution.


President Obama.

But, a look at a trio of poll numbers from an NBC News poll released late last week suggest that the President might not have much of a choice.

1. President Obama's approval numbers on foreign policy are the lowest they have been in more than four years. Just 41 percent of approve of Obama's handling of foreign policy while 49 percent disapprove. Those August numbers mark the first time more people disapproved of Obama's foreign policy approach than approved. His numbers on the question have fallen rapidly since December 2012 when 52 percent approved of the job he was doing on foreign policy. (Some of that is attributable to the post-election glow that Obama and every re-elected president enjoys.)

2. On Syria particularly, one in three (35 percent) approved of how he was handling the situation in the country while 44 percent disapproved and 21 percent weren't sure how they felt. Given the relative lack of knowledge about Syria in the general public -- and if you don't feel like you know enough, read this -- those numbers are best read as a broader approval/disapproval of Obama's foreign policy and, in truth,  his overall job performance.

3. Eight in ten (79 percent) said Obama should be required to "receive approval from Congress before taking military action in Syria" -- an overwhelming number in a country as deeply divided along partisan lines on virtually every (other) issue.

Add it all up and here's what you have: A President with a weakened hand on foreign policy matters and a public that badly wants Congress to give its ok on the strike. The real question now is what President Obama does if Congress doesn't sign off on a military strike.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Sean Sullivan · September 3, 2013