A Strike Against Syria Is Quickly Losing Public Support

A new poll shows a huge spike in the number of Americans from the end of August to last week who oppose a U.S. attack on Syria.

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Nearly two-thirds of Americans are opposed to a U.S. strike against Syria, according to a poll out Monday from the Pew Research Center and USA Today. That's a big difference from polling just a week ago, which showed that 48 percent of Americans opposed a strike.

Here's the comparative breakdown from Pew:

And so much for the idea that matters of (supposed) national security cross partisan lines. The difference over last week is most pronounced among Republicans, with a 30 percent jump in the number opposed:

A majority of Americans (54 percent) also now say that the president has not explained his rationale for a strike clearly enough, presenting Obama with a serious challenge when he addresses the nation Tuesday night. At the same time, Americans are nearly evenly divided on whether or not Syria poses a threat to the United States, with 45 percent saying it does and 50 percent saying it does not.

The polling data, while a meaningful difference from last week, isn't really surprising. George Washington University professor Sarah Binder addressed a lot of these issues in a post at The Monkey Cage last week. On partisanship, Binder surmised that, based on research, "war politics in Congress might closely resemble domestic legislative battles." Congresses have historically broken down by party on foreign conflicts, according to research from William G. Howell and Jon C. Pevehouse.

On public opinion, Binder points to research from MIT's Adam Berinsky that shows the influence elite opinion has on the public's view of a war's merits. "When political elites disagree as to the wisdom of intervention," Berinsky writes, "the public divides as well."

But when elites come to a common interpretation of a political reality, the public gives them great latitude to wage war.

Right now, elite opinion is nowhere near a common interpretation. And from the looks of the Pew poll and a new poll out from CNN/ORC International, the public is a far distance from giving anyone latitude for anything.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.