Syrian missile strike – the aftermath

Reflexive partisanship drives polling lurch on Syria strikes

via Washington Post – April 11th, 2017 –  by JAMES HOHMANN with Breanne Deppisch


THE BIG IDEA: More Americans than ever view the news through red-colored glasses.

In 2013, when Barack Obama was president, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that only 22 percent of Republicans supported the U.S. launching missile strikes against Syria in response to Bashar al-Assad using chemical weapons against civilians.

A new Post-ABC poll finds that 86 percent of Republicans support Donald Trump’s decision to launch strikes on Syria for the same reason. Only 11 percent are opposed.

— Overall, a bare 51 percent majority of U.S. adults support the president’s action in our new poll. In 2013, just 30 percent supported strikes. That swing is driven primarily by GOP partisans. For context, 37 percent of Democrats back Trump’s missile strikes. In 2013, 38 percent of Democrats supported Obama’s plan. That is well within the margin of error.

Independents are split evenly, with 46 percent backing Trump’s decision and 45 percent opposing it.

— Trump’s decision has had no impact on confidence in his leadership. A plurality say last week’s action doesn’t make a difference in their views of him:

These numbers break down along partisan lines, as well: 54 percent of Republicans say the strikes make them more confident in Trump, while just 23 percent of independents and 10 percent of Democrats do.

— The electorate’s view is somewhat nuanced:

  • There is not much confidence that firing 59 Tomahawks at one base will make much of a difference, even as a deterrent. “Nearly 7 in 10 say they are ‘not so’ or ‘not at all’ confident the U.S. missile strike will end the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons, while one-quarter are at least somewhat confident,” pollster Scott Clement notes.
  • But 54 percent oppose additional strikes against Syrian targets right now. While roughly two-thirds of Republicans favor additional action, just under one-third of independents and under one in five Democrats do.
  • Just over half the country supports a policy of trying to remove Assad from power, yet just over one-third back using military force to do it. See the full results here.)

— The Post’s poll tracks with three other public surveys conducted since Friday. Gallup pegged support for the airstrikes at 50 percent. A YouGov/HuffPo survey put it at 51 percent. And CBS News, which did not include Trump’s name in the question, registered 57 percent support.

— Political polarization helps explain why public support for the Syria strike rates low in historical context. Gallup has tracked the immediate public reaction to 11 other military interventions over the past 35 years. A majority approved of all the actions with one exception: 47 percent approved of the bombing of Libya in 2011. The 50 percent approval of the missile strikes against Syria is in line with three other actions: the same Libya bombing in 2011, Kosovo and the Balkans in 1999 (51 percent), and Grenada in 1983 (53 percent). (Check out the breakdown here.)

But barrel bombs are used nearly every day inside Syria, so taking action each time one is dropped would mark a dramatic shift in strategy and quickly ramp up U.S. involvement.
“Although Spicer lumped barrel bombs in the same category as chemical weapons on three separate occasions during a Monday briefing with reporters, he later insisted that his comments should not be interpreted as a change in U.S. policy,” Jenna Johnson and Ashley Parker note— Sean Spicer stepped in it again. The White House press secretary said yesterday that the Trump administration is prepared to take more action against Syria’s government if Assad continues to use chemical weapons and barrel bombs. “If you gas a baby, if you put a barrel bombing to innocent people, I think you can see a response from this president,” he told reporters. “That’s unacceptable.”

“Nothing has changed in our posture,” Spicer wrote in a statement yesterday afternoon to clean up his confusing message. “The president retains the option to act in Syria against the Assad regime whenever it is in the national interest … And as the president has repeatedly made clear, he will not be telegraphing his military responses.”

— Meanwhile, Eric Trump told The Daily Telegraph of London that his father bombing Syria proves he is “not in league” with Russia and “unintimidated” by Vladimir Putin. The first son also confirmed that his pop’s decision to launch the strikes was influenced by the reaction of his sister Ivanka, who was “heartbroken and outraged” by the gruesome images of dead children. The younger Trump’s remarks came as Boris Johnson said Russia will face fresh sanctions if it does not pull its armed forces out of Syria and end its support for Assad. The British Foreign Secretary, who is at a G-7 summit with Rex Tillerson, said the U.S. missile strikes “changed the game.”

— An important reminder: The U.S. still has 800 ground troops stationed inside Syria as part of the fight against ISIS. Some are close to Russian military installations:

— What lessons will Trump learn from the Syria strike? Walter Pincus worries that the president will be emboldened to use military force as a first resort and to order airstrikes on something whenever he’s in a political pickle. “Although last Thursday’s pinprick attack will have little direct impact on the Syrian civil war, it has given Trump a needed success that he has savored,” Walter laments in his column this morning for The Cipher Brief. “Trump wants immediate results and does not appear to recognize, as commander-in-chief, he must consider secondary and tertiary longer-term results that may come from any quick, immediate military decisions. … With that in mind, it seems clear that the highly-publicized sending of a U.S. Navy carrier strike group toward the Korean Peninsula in advance of a series of expected North Korean demonstrations later this month is a sign that the White House wants to build on Trump’s new appearance of ‘toughness.’”

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