A new CBS News/New York Times poll suggests that most Americans aren't concerned about conflict with North Korea or Syria, and even think that the two-year Syrian civil war isn't American business. However, the results also suggest that the reason Americans don't care about the conflict is because they aren't paying attention.
When asked the specific question, "Does the U.S. Have a Responsibility in Syria?" just 24 percent said "yes," which is actually a lower number than it was in the same poll in December of last year. Yet, even after news of possible chemical weapons attacks by Bashar al-Assad's forces, an overwhelming 62 percent still believe it's not the job of the United States to stop the fighting.
In an interesting wrinkle, however, the poll also asked how closely the respondents were following the news. Sixty percent said they aren't following it closely at all. Yet among the measly 10 percent who say they are following the news "closely," 47 percent agree that the U.S. has a responsibility to act. If you're actually aware of the ongoing atrocities, chances are more likely (though still not great) that you think America needs to do something. (In a Pew Research poll released yesterday, 45 percent of those polled said they favored U.S. military action if proof of chemical weapons use is found, but none of those survey takers were really paying attention either.)
In a similar finding in today's Times/CBS poll, only 15 percent of poll takers think North Korea is a threat that needs to be dealt with through military action. The rest say either that the situation can be contained, or is not a threat at all.
As a general rule, it seems Americans are pretty averse to the idea of overseas military intervention, no matter the cause. (That's not really a surprise given our history in that area over the last decade.) At least, they are averse to the idea when actual humans are concerned. The final question of the poll asks if respondents favor using drones to attack suspected terrorist overseas. A whopping 70 percent say they have no problem with that.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.