Americans Oppose Syria Strike, but Won't Punish Lawmakers for Supporting It

United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll finds that Republicans would face the biggest risk of a voter backlash in party primaries.

Protesters against U.S. military action in Syria shout during a demonstration in front of the White House in Washington, Monday, Sept. 9, 2013. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama will address the nation regarding Syria.  (National Journal)

Lawmakers have hemmed and hawed this month about whether to support a military strike against Syria, anxious to avoid the political repercussions of either decision. But it turns out most voters wouldn't care enough either way to throw their representative out of office.

Fifty-five percent of Americans say if their member of Congress voted for a proposed strike, it would not affect whether they would support the lawmaker's reelection, according to the latest United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll. That's a testament to the issue's overhyped political implications, despite this month's fervent public debate over its merits.

In any case, President Obama's decision Tuesday night to delay the vote while he seeks a diplomatic solution to Syria's use of chemical weapons might make the point moot. Despite the public's apathy, many lawmakers had already declared they would not support the resolution, and it looked to face long odds in the House.

More adults did say supporting the strike would make them less likely to back their incumbent. Just 13 percent of men and women said backing it would make them more likely to support the lawmaker; double that number, 26 percent, said they'd be less likely. Five percent of respondents said they didn't know how to answer or refused to do so.

If there's any risk with taking a stance on Syria, it comes from Republican primary voters. Thirty-five percent of GOP members said they would be less inclined to back their lawmaker, while only 13 percent said they'd be more likely to support their reelection. Their antipathy helps explain the rush of many Republicans in office to publicly declare their opposition to the strike.

Still, a plurality of respondents, 48 percent, said it wouldn't affect their vote either way.

Surprisingly for the party that used to define itself as antiwar, the Democrats are much less likely than Republicans to oppose the strike. An equal percentage of them said they would be more likely to support their lawmaker as said they would be less likely--each at 17 percent. Sixty-one percent said it wouldn't affect their decision at the ballot box either way.

Among independents, 12 percent said they'd be more likely to back the lawmaker; 29 percent said they'd be less inclined to do so; and 61 percent said it wouldn't affect their vote at all.

The poll was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. The group surveyed 1,002 adults by landline and cell phone from Sept. 5-8. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

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