October 31, 2017 | By Dina Hanania, Craig Kafura

Do Core Trump Supporters Differ from Others in their Approaches towards the Syrian Conflict?

Along the campaign trail and following President Trump’s inauguration, commentators have painted core Trump supporters as isolationists largely disinterested in engaging in conflicts abroad. Yet, the 2017 Chicago Council Survey finds that when compared to the overall public, core Trump supporters – those Americans who express a very favorable view of Donald Trump -- are more willing than others to engage in military action in Syria. 

A large majority of core Trump supporters, similar to Republicans overall, support US military action against violent Islamic extremist groups in Syria by conducting US airstrikes and a smaller but sizable majority support sending combat troops into Syria. While such findings align with the public’s prioritization of terrorism as a critical threat to the United States and Trump’s aggressive rhetoric on confronting the Islamic State, both run counter to the common perception of Trump’s supporters desiring a more isolationist approach to world affairs. 

Core Trump supporters are also more willing to intervene militarily against President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime than Americans overall. A majority (59%) of core Trump supporters favor conducting airstrikes against President Assad’s regime, compared to a minority (45%) of the overall public. Additionally, 38 percent of core Trump supporters favor sending combat troops into Syria to forcibly remove Assad from power, while only 28 percent of the overall public supports doing so. In their willingness to use force against the Assad regime, Trump supporters are relatively on par with Republicans.

As outlined in the Council’s What Americans Think about America First report, a wide majority of core Trump supporters support US intervention to stop or prevent a government from using chemical or biological weapons against its own people (80% core Trump supporters, 74% overall public) , to deal with a humanitarian crisis (56% core Trump supporters, 67% overall public), and to fight against violent Islamic extremist groups in Iraq and Syria (76% core Trump supporters, 63% overall). Far from backing away from military interventions, core Trump supporters express more support than most Americans for a military intervention in the highly-complex Syrian conflict. Such results call for the reassessment of the common portrayal of core Trump supporters as committed isolationists.  

About

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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