Two new polls out this week shows strong support among Americans for the U.S. to pursue a diplomatic track in dealing with Syria’s chemical weapons.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll released on Tuesday found that 79 percent of respondents support the recent U.S-Russian deal to place the Syrian government’s chemical weapons stockpiles under international control.
The poll was about spit over whether Congress should authorize military force against Syria should President Bashar al-Assad fail to comply with the agreement. Forty-four percent said Congress should authorize force if diplomacy fails, while 48 percent said it should not.
Another poll released this week by Pew Research, but conducted before the U.S.-Russian deal, found that 67 percent supported Obama’s decision last week to delay votes in Congress to authorize force to allow the U.S. and its international partners to explore new diplomatic opportunities to rein in Assad’s chemical weapons.
At that time, Obama was pushing Congress to authorize a limited military attack on Syria in response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons, but sudden Russian cooperation, which many argue was forced by Obama’s threat to use force in Syria, led the United States to delay military action to let the diplomatic overture play out.
While both polls found that a minority of Americans support a military attack on Syria, the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent notes that despite the elite media narrative that Obama has been weak and indecisive on Syria in recent weeks, the poll’s results actually show that most Americans support his maneuvering:
At the same time, the [Post/ABC] poll finds a leading elite criticism of Obama’s handling of the crisis — that his changing of mind along with shifting circumstances showed a vacillation that risks projecting wavering intent — isn’t shared by the public. Sixty percent say he “sticks with his principles,” roughly unchanged since January 2012. A plurality thinks the initial threat of missile strikes helped the situation by pressuring Syria to give up its chemical weapons — meaning Americans accept Obama’s argument about the impact of the threat (even if they oppose action) and don’t see his change of course as somehow diminishing it. A plurality also says Obama made a good case in his speech the other night — despite widespread pundit derision. [...]
Indeed, yesterday’s Pew poll finds overwhelming support for the diplomatic deal, and also finds a plurality sees Obama’s change of course as “leadership and a willingness to adapt to changing circumstances,” rather than “weakness.”
“There’s lots to criticize Obama for on Syria,” Sargent says on Twitter, “But new WaPo poll shows pundits badly blowing this story.”