70 percent of Americans oppose the Administration’s recently-revealed plans to send light weaponry to the Syrian rebels, according to a new poll from the Pew Center.
The poll, conducted in roughly equal parts before and after the United States government revealed that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against the rebels, asked respondents to give their opinion on “the US and its allies giving arms to anti-government groups in Syria.” A scant 20 percent of Americans said they would favor this course of action, while nine percent had no opinion.
These results are in keeping with two previous Pew polls, in March and December of 2012, that asked the same question, suggesting American public opinion on the question of providing arms had not changed alongside the shifting contours of the Syrian conflict itself.
Other polling on intervention in Syria’s war has been more mixed. A Gallup poll conducted in late May asking whether should use military force if diplomacy fails to resolve the conflict found 68 percent opposed the idea. However, an April Pew poll found a plurality of Americans would support taking military action against the Assad regime if we could confirm it used chemical weapons.
The most recent Pew poll suggested American opposition to intervention in Syria was practical, not principled. By a significant 53-36 margin, Pew found Americans believed it was “important that the United States support people opposing authoritarian regimes.” Similarly, a plurality said that the US “had a moral obligation to do what it could to stop the violence” in Syria. However, huge majorities — 68-27 and 60-25, respectively — of those polled suggested the United States military was too burdened as is and that the rebels weren’t necessarily much better than the Assad regime itself.
Though Republicans, Democrats, and Independents opposed providing arms to the rebels at nearly-identical levels, Democrats were more likely to say the rebels were better than Assad and that the US had an obligation to stop the killing than Republicans and Independents were. Despite the public’s ambivalence, Congressional leaders from both parties and both chambers have expressed their desire for President Obama to move forward with arming Syria’s rebels.
The most recent United Nations estimate suggests 93,000 people have been killed in the brutal war, which began after the Assad regime repeatedly fired en masse on non-violent demonstrators. The bulk of those dead, according the UN, have been civilians.