Americans narrowly support missile strikes ordered by President Trump last week in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack in Syria, even as most oppose additional military efforts to remove President Bashar al-Assad from power, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
By 51 to 40 percent, more support than oppose the missile strikes launched early Friday on the Shayrat air base in Syria, with opinions dividing sharply along partisan lines. Trump’s action was widely praised by Republicans, as well as many Democrats, though there has been less agreement on what additional steps to take.
The Post-ABC poll finds 54 percent oppose additional military strikes against the Syrian government at this time. And while more than half the public endorses a policy of trying to remove Assad as Syria’s president — 51 percent — just 35 percent support exerting more military force to do so.
Trump’s action does not appear to have boosted confidence in his leadership, with about one-quarter each saying it makes them “more confident” or “less confident”; a plurality say it doesn’t make a difference.
Americans are broadly pessimistic about the strike’s potential to deter Syria’s chemical weapons use and express concern about the impact on U.S.-Russian relations. Nearly 7 in 10 say they are “not so” or “not at all” confident the U.S. missile strike will end the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons, while one-quarter are at least somewhat confident.
Nearly 6 in 10 say they are concerned about the missile strike worsening relations with Russia, which has firmly supported the Assad regime and bolstered its military in battles with rebel groups.
The slight majority support for missile strikes last week is markedly higher than in September 2013, when President Barack Obama urged Congress to approve a military operation in response to U.S. government conclusions that Assad used chemical weapons on his own citizens. A Post-ABC poll at the time found 61 percent opposed to launching missile strikes, including 45 percent who opposed them “strongly.”
The sharpest change has been among Republicans, among whom 22 percent supported missile strikes compared with 86 percent today.
Views on Syria action today are heavily tied to partisan loyalties, though more than one-third of Democrats support Trump’s order, (37 percent support, while 59 percent are opposed). Independents are nearly evenly split, with 46 percent supporting the airstrikes and 45 percent opposed.
Support for continuing airstrikes against the Syrian government also draws sharp partisan differences, with 65 percent of Republicans endorsing additional action, compared with 32 percent of independents and 19 percent of Democrats.
About two-thirds of Republicans also say the United States should make removing Assad part of its official policy, though less than half, 46 percent, support additional military action to achieve this goal.
The Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted among a random national sample of 900 adults reached on cellular and landline phones. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by SSRS of Media, Pa.
Emily Guskin contributed to this report.