Half of Americans support President Donald Trump’s missile strikes against Syria in retaliation for the Syrian government’s reported use of chemicals weapons on its citizens, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov survey. The poll also found some Americans concerned about Trump’s preparation for the attack and his failure to seek congressional authorization.
Fifty-one percent of Americans say they support Trump’s decision to order strikes, with 32 percent opposed, and 17 percent uncertain.
Four in 10 view the strikes as an appropriate response, with 25 percent considering them too aggressive, and 10 percent not aggressive enough.
Still, the poll found pessimistic views of the attack’s efficacy. Just one-third of the public thinks the strikes will be even somewhat likely to deter the use of chemical weapons, with 46 percent believing they’re somewhat unlikely or very unlikely to have any such effect.
There was little support for further U.S. response. Only 20 percent of Americans want Trump to take additional military action, while 36 percent say he should not. A plurality, 45 percent, was unsure.
Trump’s actions have drawn criticism from many typically sympathetic right-wing media figures who back a more isolationist approach to foreign policy. But voters who supported Trump in last year’s election are overall deeply supportive. Eighty-three percent say they support the strikes, with the majority, 62 percent, strongly in favor. Just 11 percent say they’re opposed.
Voters who supported Hillary Clinton lean toward disapproval of the strikes, but with far less unanimity than they’ve displayed against many of Trump’s previous actions: 40 percent approve, and 47 percent disapprove. Fewer than a quarter are strongly opposed.
There’s also a significant split by age, with older Americans far more likely to favor the strikes. Adults aged 65 and older are nearly twice as likely as those under age 30 to support the attack. Forty percent of respondents in the youngest age group, but just 8 percent in the oldest group, believe the response was too aggressive.
Many Americans Aren’t Paying Close Attention To Syria
The HuffPost/YouGov survey is one of the first sets of data available on Americans’ reaction to the strikes. As always, the results of one poll shouldn’t be taken as gospel truth. That’s especially true on issues like foreign policy, where only a relatively small share of the public is likely to have substantive background knowledge or strongly held preexisting opinions, and where the framing of survey questions can have a potentially significant effect. Additionally, views will continue to be shaped by whatever follows in Syria, and the tenor of media coverage.
Although about two-thirds of the public say they are following the events in Syria at least somewhat closely, barely more than one-fourth report paying close attention to the news. Underscoring this point, respondents were asked near the beginning of the survey whether they knew if the U.S. had conducted strikes in Syria in the past six months. While 57 percent said that it had, 19 percent said there hadn’t been any such strikes, and 24 percent that they weren’t sure.
Plurality Say Trump Should’ve Sought Congressional Approval
Overall, the public approves of Trump’s handling of Syria by a modest 4-point margin, 41 percent to 37 percent ― significantly better than his overall approval rating.
But other questions reveal wariness about the president’s decision-making process. Americans say, 42 percent to 32 percent, that Trump did not plan carefully enough before ordering the strikes. They also say, 44 percent to 22 percent, that his actions were not consistent with his previous statements about Syria.
A plurality, 46 percent, say Trump should have gotten authorization from Congress before authorizing the strikes, and 31 percent that he should not have done so. Forty percent say Congress should have the final authority on such actions, while 35 percent say Trump should. (In 2013, a Pew Research survey found that, by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, Americans believed that Congress should have the final say over then-president Barack Obama.)
Opinions are largely divided along political lines, with most Trump voters saying he planned carefully enough and did not need congressional approval, and Clinton voters disagreeing on both fronts. Just 12 percent of Clinton voters, and slightly less than half of Trump voters, say his decision was consistent with his past statements.
Split On U.S. Role In World Affairs, Responsibility To Act In Syria
Americans are evenly split between saying it’s best for the future of the U.S. to be active in world affairs, and saying we should pay less attention to problems overseas and concentrate on problems here.
That represents a shift away from isolationism since last year. In a June 2016 HuffPost/YouGov survey, Americans said 49 percent to 38 percent that the U.S. should pay less attention to problems overseas.
In the most recent survey, Americans say by a 7-point margin, 40 percent to 33 percent, that problems in the world would be even worse without U.S. involvement.
Thirty-six percent say that the U.S. has a responsibility to do something about the fighting in Syria, with an equal percentage saying it has a responsibility to accept Syrian refugees; 36 percent and 43 percent, respectively, don’t think the U.S. has those responsibilities.
Clinton voters are likelier than Trump voters to support taking an active role in world affairs, and to feel a responsibility to take in refugees. But Clinton voters are less likely to say that world problems would be worse without U.S. involvement. Roughly similar shares of both groups say the U.S. has a responsibility to do something about the fighting in Syria.
Opinions again divided along generational lines, with younger Americans more likely to take isolationist views. Sixty percent of Americans ages 65 and older say it’s best for the future of the country to be active in world affairs, and 59 percent that problems in the world would be worse without U.S. involvement; among adults under age 30, those numbers are just 36 percent and 27 percent, respectively.
Use the widget below to further explore the results of HuffPost/YouGov’s survey,using the menu at the top to select survey questions and the buttons at the bottom to filter the data by subgroups:
The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted April 7 and April 8 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.
The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls.You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.
Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.