The polling firm YouGov reported this week that a poll the group recently conducted found that “European nations want military intervention in Syria.” The firm’s website writes that the new poll found that “most of the European nations surveyed, including Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Finland, France and Britain, would prefer Western countries to provide military assistance to Syria, but only with the backing of the UN.”
Reuters picked up on the story, reporting that according to the YouGov poll, “most Europeans support military intervention against Syria.”
Yet, a closer look at the actual polling results provided by YouGov suggests that it’s unclear whether the poll respondents favor intervening militarily in Syria. The poll asks if Western countries should or should not “take action against the Syrian regime,” with or without backing from the United Nations:
The poll does not explain the meaning of “take action,” which can involve any number of scenarios in which Western countries intervene in Syria, including non-militarily.
When asked why YouGov’s write up of the poll results extrapolated “take action” to mean “military intervention,” YouGov Director of Political and Social Research Joe Twyman said the write up made “an assumption” that the poll respondents were offering support for military intervention in Syria.
“The survey itself specifically mentioned United Nations action and the fact that such action had been vetoed by Russia and China,” Twyman said. However, the resolution China and Russia vetoed in February does not authorize military intervention in Syria.
Thus, it is unclear what the YouGov poll respondents were offering support for. While military intervention is one possible “action” Western countries can take in Syria, it is by no means the only course. On this side of the Atlantic, a Fox News poll last month found that Americans are disinclined to support any type of military intervention in Syria. The March 15 survey said 68 percent opposed air strikes aimed at overthrowing Bashar al-Assad’s regime and 64 percent opposed arming the rebels.
Yet the New York Times reported this week that the U.S. and other countries are moving closer “to direct intervention in the fighting in Syria, with Arab nations pledging $100 million to pay opposition fighters and the Obama administration agreeing to send communications equipment to help rebels organize and evade Syria’s military.”