YouGov and Huffington Post just published a poll of 1,000 adults in the United States, conducted August 26, 27. The summary result is no to providing military assistance and no to any obligation to prevent chemical weapons use in the conflict. These results are remarkable in and of themselves. However, the overwhelming belief (50%, see question 5) that the Syrian government was responsible for the attacks makes the public judgment against intervention all the more remarkable.
Will President Barack Obama heed the will of the people? Probably not, that would be setting a dangerous precedent. The risk Obama and the Republican amen chorus take in going forward with the punitive air strikes is significant in this Post-Snowden world.
There may be a definitive answer as to who actually perpetrated the chemical attack. If the strikes take place and it turns out the Syrian government is the proven perpetrator, that’s one thing. If the strikes take place and it turns out that the near “100% certainty” professed by the administration was nonsense, then there will be a heavy price that the administration will start paying immediately.
Previously, there was a plurality support by the public for the use of the U.S. military in the case that the Syrian government used chemical weapons. The public favored some action by 45% to 31% in April according to a Pew Poll.. That appears to have changed if YouGov is right at 31% 39% no to an obligation to act even if chemical weapons were used.
The political calculation on a U.S. military strike must take into account current approval levels for the president and Congress. Obama’s political capital is low with negatives over positives — and the positives are all below 50%. Congress is at an all time low of 8% approval. Why wouldn’t Congress take the lead in opposing the strikes?
The White House, aggressive on the need for unilateral military action, and Congress, less adamant, are both in high risk positions if the strikes take place.
Those who criticize the American public for ignorance or submissiveness need to wake up to the new reality, which has been in place for some time (see below). Citizens of the United States are making rational decisions based on their experience of past propaganda efforts, particularly the WMD lies before the Iraq invasion of 2003. Give the people just enough information and they will make a good decision.