Most in U.S. oppose Syria strike, Post-ABC poll finds

Americans widely oppose launching missile strikes against the Syrian government for its alleged use of chemical weapons, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll that finds little appetite for military action across the country despite a growing drumbeat in Washington.


President Obama and Vice President Biden

Nearly six in 10 oppose missile strikes in light of the U.S. government's determination that Syria used chemical weapons against its own people. Democrats and Republicans alike oppose strikes by double digit margins, and there is deep opposition among every political and demographic group in the survey. Political independents are among the most clearly opposed, with 66 percent saying they are against military action.

Broad opposition in the new poll contrasts with a December Post-ABC poll that found most Americans saying they would be supportive of U.S. action if Syria used chemical weapons. At that time, 63 percent supported U.S. military involvement when it was a hypothetical situation, while 30 percent were opposed.

Such possible support for action has yet to materialize in the weeks after an August 21 gassing that reportedly killed 1,429 people outside of Damascus. The survey was conducted Wednesday through Sunday, as the Obama administration made its public case for military strikes and presented intelligence claiming  "high certainty" that Syria's government is the culprit in attacks.

Americans express more support for action if Britain and France were to join the cause, a prospect that became far less likely after the British parliament shot down a proposal for military action in Syria. In the United States, support for missile strikes in Syria rises by 10 percentage points, to 46 percent, if Britain and France participate, including a 14 point jump among independents. Still, 51 percent remain opposed even if such a coalition materialized.

The public expresses even wider opposition to arming Syrian rebels, which President Obama authorized in June. Fully seven in 10 oppose arming rebels, including large majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents.

The poll finds somewhat lower support for military action than an NBC News poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday of last week. In that survey, 42 percent supported military action, rising to 50 percent for limited strikes targeting Syria's chemical weapons facilities. Here is a link to the wording and results in that survey.

See the full poll and interactive results by group.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted by telephone Aug. 28-Sept. 1, 2013, among a random national sample of 1,012 adults, including users of both conventional and cellular phones. The margin of sampling error for overall results is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Jon Cohen and Peyton M. Craighill contributed to this report.

Read more:
12 key voices in Congress for the Syria debate
Where the votes stand on Syria
Lawmakers propose limits on Obama's Syria authority
9 questions about Syria you were too embarrassed to ask

Scott Clement is a survey research analyst for The Washington Post. Scott specializes in public opinion about politics, election campaigns and public policy.

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