May 30, 2013
What Americans Really Think About Syria- Part 3
In parts 1 and 2 of “what Americans really think about Syria” we concluded, based on several polls, that “Obama is on safe ground as he decides to ignore the red line he drew, a line he didn’t quite intend to draw”. We can now present you with an updated table of recent polls – not all of them, but a few from recent days.
We added two new polls, from CNN and Fox News and added the answers to our existing categories. A note of caution: the categories aren’t perfect. We divided the questions by their general subjects, but the wording can still be very different. Hence, what we have here is an attempt to look at trends and examine general attitudes, trends and attitudes which are open for debate and interpretation. Still, we think that some comparisons between polls are interesting and even illuminating. And we will keep following such polls to see how precise we are in our description of American attitudes toward was in Syria.
Take a look at the table, followed by comments:
Should the US involve itself in the Syrian mess? The answer to this question didn’t change much between the NYT poll of April 28 and the Fox poll of May 18. About a quarter of Americans were for involvement, but the vast majority said no. We should factor in the way the Fox question was asked. Take a look:
Obviously, this is a problematic way of asking the question. What if I think that there is a humanitarian crisis in Syria but do not believe that Syria is a “strategically important country”? It leaves me with no options for an answer. And what if I think it is a civil war, but I still believe it’s winnable for the US? When the NYT asked the question- which we decided to categorize as an “involvement” question- they did it by simply asking: “Do you think the United States has a responsibility to do something about the fighting in Syria between government forces and anti-government groups, or doesn't the United States have this responsibility?”
Of course, asking about “responsibility” is also somewhat tricky. Does saying that the US has the “responsibility” mean that you also support action? Before you answer, take a look at the CNN question – a question that we put under the “If chemicals are used” category:
66% answered this question by saying that the US would be “justified”. Obviously, most of these Americans still don’t support “action”. They see how it’s justified but still don’t want it. How do we know that? Bear with me – this will be a little more complicated:
Two interesting questions:
What would happen to public perception if Americans start seeing the Syrian war as one in which “they” – namely Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, Assad – are winning (see the article by Elliot Abrams to get more on that angle)?
What would happen to public perception if the internal Syrian conflict becomes a larger war involving Israel (as a consequence of an Israeli attack on Syrian missiles)?