Pew: Public bailing on Obama, 63 percent oppose war, 28 percent back prez

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Barack Obama,Polls,Syria

A week into President Obama’s campaign to win support for punishing Syria for using chemical weapons, the public has increasingly turned their back on him, according to a new Pew Research Center poll that has to be depressing to the White House.

In a week, the number who oppose Obama’s airstrikes has jumped 15 points, from 48 percent to 63 percent. Just 28 percent support Obama, said Pew.

From the authoritative polling operation today:

Over just the past week, the share of Americans who oppose U.S. airstrikes in Syria has surged 15 points, from 48% to 63%, as many who were undecided about the issue have turned against military action, according to a new national survey from the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY.

By contrast, the share of Americans who support airstrikes remains virtually unchanged: Just 28% favor U.S. military airstrikes against Syria in response to reports that its government used chemical weapons.

The new survey by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY, conducted Sept. 4-8 among 1,506 adults, finds that this growing opposition to Syrian airstrikes is intense: 45% say they oppose airstrikes very strongly. That is roughly three-times the percentage (16%) that strongly favors airstrikes.

Republicans, in particular, have turned against airstrikes. A week ago, 35% of Republicans favored and 40% opposed military airstrikes. Today, Republicans oppose airstrikes by an overwhelming 70% to 21% margin, with 51% saying they are strongly opposed. Opposition has grown among independents as well, with two-thirds (66%) now opposed, up from half (50%) last weekend.

Democrats continue to oppose military action: 53% oppose airstrikes against Syria while 35% support them; the margin is little changed from a week ago (29% favored, 48% opposed).

Barack Obama’s standing with the public has declined. His overall job approval has slipped into negative territory (44% approve, 49% disapprove) for the first time since early last year. Public ratings of his handling of foreign policy – once an area of relative strength for the president – have slipped and now just 33% approve. And when it comes to Obama’s handling of Syria in particular, more disapprove than approve by nearly two-to-one (56% vs. 29%).

As Obama prepares for his address on Syria on Tuesday, a majority of Americans (54%) say he has not explained clearly why the United States should launch military airstrikes against Syria while 35% say he has. A week ago, 32% said he had explained clearly the reasons for airstrikes and 48% said he had not.

The public, by roughly two-to-one (61% to 30%), believes that Congress – not the president – should have final authority over whether the U.S. conducts airstrikes in Syria.

Although six-in-ten agree that the U.S. must act to show that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable, just 42% of those who express this view favor U.S. airstrikes against Syria.

A narrow majority of the public (54%) says the U.S. has a moral obligation to stop the violence against civilians. But an even higher percentage (75%) says that U.S. airstrikes in Syria are likely to make things in the Middle East worse. And just 39% say the U.S. will lose credibility around the world if it does not act in Syria.

The public is divided over whether the situation in Syria is a threat to U.S. security: 45% say it is, while 50% say it is not. And about six-in-ten (61%) agree there are no good policy options for the U.S. in how it deals with Syria, while 34% disagree.

For the full survey, go to This survey is for immediate release and is available at the Pew Research Center website at

Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at