The American Public Understands Obama’s Position on Syria. They Just Disagree With It.


Greg Sargent notes today the results of a new CNN poll: 82 percent of Americans believe that Bashar al-Assad launched a chemical weapons attack against his own people. Nonetheless, 59 percent are opposed to U.S. military action against Syria:

What this underscores, again, is that the case against Assad has already been made successfully, and that it isn’t enough. The White House has yet to persuade Americans to accept the underlying rationale behind strikes — that they would deter further attacks, or that the potential upsides of intervening, whatever they are, outweigh the potential risks.

I think that’s right. It’s not that Obama’s case is “muddled” or “weak,” or that people aren’t paying attention. They know what Assad has done, and they know why Obama wants to launch air strikes against him. They just don’t agree. This means that if Obama wants to win over public opinion, a more robust version of his current argument probably will move the needle only a little bit. He needs something different.

However, I’d also draw your attention to this:

The American public may be against air strikes, but generally speaking, they don’t really seem to care much. This is both good news and bad for Obama. The good news is that this means most Democrats won’t punish their representatives for voting for the war. The bad news is that most Republicans won’t punish them for voting against it. The other 42 percent say they might, though frankly I kind of doubt it. Still, I’d sure like to see some crosstabs that tell us the partisan makeup of the 31 percent who are more likely to vote for their representative if they’re against a military strike.

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