August 15, 2016 | By Dina Smeltz, Craig Kafura

Americans Support Limited Military Action in Syria

The 2016 Chicago Council Survey, conducted June 10-27, reveals that Americans across partisan lines support the Obama Administration’s current approach: limited military action that combines airstrikes and Special Operations Forces. Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton have starkly contrasting positions on acceptance of Syrian refugees into the United States, reflected in a partisan divide among the public in the Council’s survey. The data also reveal overall American skepticism toward arming anti-government groups and US efforts to negotiate a deal that would leave President Assad in power. Specific findings include:

Limited military missions: The 2016 Chicago Council Survey shows that seven in ten Americans (72%), including a majority across the political spectrum, support airstrikes against violent Islamic extremist groups in Syria. In addition, an overall majority support deployment of Special Operations forces (57%) as well as enforcing a no-fly zone over parts of Syria (52%). 

Syrian refugees: Acceptance of Syrian refugees into the United States reveals a stark partisan divide that has widened since 2014 – a mere 18 percent of Republicans are in favor (down from 27% in 2014) compared to over half of Democrats (56%). 

Rejection of Assad and Anti-Government Forces: Americans are wary of arming anti-government forces, regardless of partisan leanings. Overall, a quarter of the US public (26%) supports arming rebel forces.  Only a third overall favor US efforts to negotiate a peace deal that would leave Bashar al-Assad in power.

Read the full survey brief and the associated Washington Post article

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The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion. 

The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.

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