The Pew Research Center is out with a new poll today on U.S. public attitudes toward Syria. The results are unambiguous: Americans want nothing to do with the civil war that has now killed almost 40,000 Syrians. More than six-in-ten respondents (63 percent) say that the United States does not have a responsibility to do something to end the fighting in Syria. A slightly higher number (65 percent) opposes even arming rebel groups in Syria.
Unlike most other issues in American politics, opinions about Syria don’t break down along party lines. Majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents oppose both direct U.S. intervention and arming rebel groups.
The poll’s findings, which are nearly identical to what Pew found when it asked the same questions last March, indicate that President Obama isn’t likely to pay a political price at home for not doing more on Syria. That doesn’t mean, however, that he will necessarily pay a significant political price if he changes his current course and orders direct or indirect U.S. military action against the Assad regime. Six-in-ten Americans opposed intervening in Libya’s civil war back in March 2011. Obama ignored that public sentiment, but Operation Odyssey Dawn never became an issue in his march to reelection.
The question of the political consequences of a U.S. military action in Syria could become more than an academic one given signs that the Assad government has been preparing to use chemical weapons to maintain its hold on power. I’ll have more on that challenge in a post on Monday.