The Fix | Analysis
April 10, 2017 at 8:35 AM
President Trump's strikes against the Syrian government earned the support of the American people and improved views of Trump (albeit only slightly), according to a new poll. But the biggest takeaway might be the big, red stop sign that came with all that.
A new CBS News poll — the first live-caller poll to test reactions to the strikes — shows 57 percent of Americans agree with the decision Trump made. His approval rating, meanwhile, edged up to 43 percent, with about half (49 percent) still disapproving.
But Americans were even more emphatic about what they don't want to see next: any other unilateral strikes authorized by Trump or further involvement, period. And there is basically no vote of confidence when it comes to Trump's leadership.
Seven in 10 — including a majority of Republicans — said Trump needs to obtain authorization from Congress for any more strikes. And a majority — 54 percent — say they are "uneasy" about Trump's approach to the situation in Syria, with just 41 percent expressing confidence in him.
And finally, just 18 percent say they would like to see American ground troops in the civil war, which features Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government forces; the Islamic State, also known as ISIS; and more moderate opposition forces. An additional 30 percent say they are okay with airstrikes — but many of them apparently want authorization first.
That support for ground troops is only slightly higher than it was in 2013, the last time the U.S. government threatened to retaliate for Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons. A McClatchy-Marist poll at the time showed 13 percent believed ground troops were called for.
At the time, very few Americans supported even the kind of airstrikes that Trump launched last week, so the situations aren't completely analogous. And as our own Scott Clement noted Friday, actions like the one Trump took often gain more support after the fact. President Obama never wound up launching strikes against Syria, despite having set the infamous "red line."
But the new poll also makes clear that there is no significant increase in appetite for getting the United States more involved in a very difficult set of circumstances in the Middle East. Fourteen years after the war in Iraq was launched, the war-weariness still holds strong, even as Trump's limited strike earned a thumbs-up.
And the Trump administration doesn't seem particularly likely to take things further. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that its priority in Syria remains defeating the Islamic State. And national security adviser H.R. McMaster said that although the administration now believes Assad should go, it's leaving that up to others.
"It's very difficult to understand how a political solution could result from the continuation of the Assad regime," McMaster said on "Fox News Sunday." "Now, we are not saying that we are the ones who are going to effect that change. What we are saying is other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions."
That seems to be in line with what the American people want right now. And it seems that even when Trump does something the American people clearly support, they aren't going to suddenly give him the keys to the car.