Poll: 52% of Republicans "somewhat support" sending U.S. combat troops into Syria to remove Assad

Yeah, yeah, I know what Trump said. But the GOP’s got a fever and the only prescription is more regime change in the Middle East with no exit strategy!

Not the first time we’ve had this fever, actually. You’d think we’d have come up with a vaccine by now.

Americans have different views on how the U.S. should conduct its foreign policy in Syria. Seven in 10 voters want more economic sanctions, while 57 percent support airstrikes in Syria and cyberattacks against Assad’s military. Nearly 6 in 10 (58 percent) said they support establishing a no-fly zone over parts of Syria, including targeted airstrikes against Syrian air defense systems.

Americans are split, 44 percent to 43 percent, over whether ground troops should be used to counter terrorist forces in Syria, while 44 percent oppose using ground troops to remove Assad — a move supported by 39 percent of voters

Regardless of how voters view Assad’s position, the airstrikes Trump ordered in retaliation to the Syrian president were supported by 66 percent of voters, while about a quarter (24 percent) opposed them.

Here’s what the crosstabs look like for the question about using U.S. troops to remove Assad. Among Republican men specifically, support reaches 58 percent:

Who exactly are these pro-regime-change Republicans? Among self-identified conservatives, the split on forcibly removing Assad is just 43/40. It’s a tad higher among Trump voters at 47/39, but still below the overall GOP numbers. One possible explanation: The “somewhat support” group in each category may be imagining “removing Assad” as an operation in the mold of the Bin Laden raid, where Assad wakes up one night to find SEALs rappeling onto his balcony and then they’re gone 90 minutes later. It … wouldn’t work out that way in practice, unless Iran and Hezbollah are much more lax in operational security than everyone believes. And even if it did, what sort of reprisals would be taken by the Russian/Iranian/Alawite axis against Syrian Sunnis to punish the U.S. for bumping off their resident puppet? Let’s think this through.

Can we trust these Morning Consult numbers, though? Some of their data does seem to line up with other recent polls. They’ve got 66 percent in favor of Trump’s airstrikes; CBS found 57 percent in favor while Pew has it at 58 percent, both comparable numbers. Meanwhile, YouGov finds a strong uptick among Republicans who believe that the U.S. “has a responsibility to intervene in trouble spots” around the world, rising from 18 percent in 2013 to 51 percent now, which dovetails with the greater willingness in Morning Consult’s poll to bump off Assad. I wonder in hindsight whether Trump’s isolationist rhetoric on the trail last year found an audience not because Republicans were questioning the wisdom of interventionism but because they were merely questioning the wisdom of Obama. Trump’s pitch was always framed, after all, in terms of America’s current leaders being stupid, with the implication that once he was president we could trust America to be run smartly and effectively again. Well, now that he’s president, Republicans may be expecting smart and effective interventions. Go get Assad!

There are other polls, though, that contradict the Morning Consult numbers. When YouGov asked if the U.S. has a responsibility to do anything about the fighting in Syria, Americans split evenly at 36 while Trump voters split narrowly at 39/37. Hard to imagine how we get from there to 52 percent supporting toppling Assad with U.S. troops in the MC data. CBS, meanwhile, found just 18 percent of Americans willing to endorse “full U.S. military involvement in Syria with ground troops” versus 71 percent willing to tolerate nothing more than airstrikes or less. If it’s really true that 52 percent of Republicans are “somewhat” prepared to overthrow Assad by force, it’s probably less a serious policy position than just a flourish of support within his own party for Trump’s airstrikes against America’s new enemy. Once Republicans realized what a regime-change mission would require in terms of manpower and casualties, they’d reconsider. I think?

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Jazz Shaw 7:31 PM on October 02, 2022