The proposed U.S. military intervention in Syria is by far the most unpopular potential conflict of at least the past 20 years, according to a new Gallup survey.
The Gallup poll found that only 36% of Americans favour taking military action in Syria to “reduce Syria’s ability to use chemical weapons.” That compared with 51% who were opposed to such action. It was, however, slightly up from a May Gallup survey that found, by a 24-68 margin, Americans opposed intervention to “end the conflict” — suggesting the use of chemical weapons is a game-changer for some respondents.
Still, even the limited intervention proposed in Syria does not earn anywhere near majority support. It lags behind public support of four other high-profile recent conflicts before intervention began.
Iraq in 2003 (59-37 in favour), Afghanistan in 2001 (82-14), and the Persian Gulf (62-33) wars were three international conflicts that enjoyed robust support from the American public leading up to their commencements. Intervention in Kosovo/The Balkans was narrowly opposed by a 43-45 margin before intervention.
Here’s a look at the comparison of those five recent conflicts:
If limited military strikes are approved in Syria — something that looks increasingly unlikely in Congress — Gallup suggests that there could be what is known as a “rally effect,” wherein the American public is more likely to support military action after it has commenced.
Here’s a look at the “rally effect”:
Still, among the four conflicts in that chart that Gallup also measured pre-conflict, the average bump (about 12 points) wouldn’t be enough to earn a possible Syrian intervention a majority of Americans’ support.
The lack of public support is something that President Barack Obama has acknowledged in his quest to sell his plan for intervention, noting frequently the challenges of selling more military action to a “war weary” public.
“For the American people, who have been through over a decade of war now, with enormous sacrifice in blood and treasure, any hint of further military entanglements in the Middle East are going to be viewed with suspicion,” Obama said in a press conference at the G20 summit on Friday.
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