NBC/WSJ poll shows increasing opposition to military action in Syria

For some reason, Barack Obama will still address the nation tonight to argue for military strikes few want on a country that doesn’t threaten the US and whose government has already suggested that they will give up the weapons that Obama supposedly will target — after a series of fumbles by the Obama administration created that opening for them.  Should he bother? The new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that Obama is not only failing to make his case, but he’s actually creating more opposition, just as Pew discovered yesterday:

President Barack Obama faces a “tall order” in convincing Americans on Syria with nearly 60 percent who say they want their member of Congress to oppose the use of military force there, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

With Obama set to address the nation Tuesday night to advocate U.S. intervention against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, just 24 percent of Americans believe military action in response to Assad’s reported use of chemical weapons is in the United States’ interest.

More ominously for Obama and his allies, opposition to military action only has grown since the president first sought approval from Congress and since the administration began waging an intense campaign to win congressional support. Congress is expected to vote on authorization this week but the timing is uncertain.

The NBC/WSJ poll series has been the most friendly to Obama on this topic.  It produced the outlier result of 50/44 support last month for military strikes against Syria as long as the weapons were limited to ship-based cruise missiles. That has now flipped to 44/51 opposition.  Only 33% want Congress to authorize military action, with 58% opposed — not too far off from the Pew and WaPo/ABC polls.  Furthermore, 59% oppose any action by Obama without Congressional approval, with only 36% supporting.

The crisis has done some damage to Obama, although not in his overall approval rating — at least not yet.  Only 33% believe that Obama has made a case for military intervention, while a majority of 54% say he hasn’t. His approval rating on the handling of the crisis has gone from a poor 35/44 last month to an abysmal 28/57 in this poll.  After three weeks of insisting that attacking Syria is in our national interest, support for that argument has grown only three points, from 21% to 24%, within the margin of error in the polling — but disagreement has risen from 33% to 47%, a huge shift in the wrong direction for Obama.

And this all came before John Kerry fumbled away Western diplomatic leadership to Vladimir Putin, and made the issue of military strikes moot.  If Obama’s argument tonight is, “We have to continue to make empty threats to maintain our credibility!”, well, the White House might get positively nostalgic for these poll numbers by next month.


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David Strom 3:21 PM on March 24, 2023