Poll Finds Little Support For Trump’s Syria Retreat

President Trump's sudden decision to withdraw troops from Syria isn't receiving much public support.

A new poll finds the American public reacting fairly negatively to the President’s abrupt withdrawal of American forces from northern Syria and the subsequent Turkish invasion of that area:

Few voters are on board with President Donald Trump’s decision to remove U.S. troops from northeastern Syria, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll that also shows fatigue over the nation’s military entanglements around the world.

Only 37 percent of voters support Trump’s decision regarding Syria, the poll shows, less than the 43 percent who oppose it. But a sizable number, 20 percent, say they don’t have an opinion about Trump’s decision.

Opinions of Trump’s decision fall mostly along party lines. Among Democratic voters, 20 percent support it, while 62 percent oppose it. Republicans are a mirror image: 61 percent support Trump’s decision and 22 percent oppose it. Among independents, just 30 percent back Trump’s decision, while 43 percent oppose it.

Tyler Sinclair, Morning Consult’s vice president, said the numbers show GOP voters “are standing by” Trump, even as most Republicans in Congress oppose his decision to withdraw troops. Majorities in both parties voted in the House last week to register their disapproval of the decision.

“This week, 61 percent of Republicans say they support President Trump’s decision to remove U.S. troops from Syria, compared to 56 percent who said the same last week,” said Sinclair. “The president’s [overall] standing among Republicans also remains strong, as 84 percent approve and 14 percent disapprove of his performance.”

On some level, of course, this is a surprise given the fact that polling has shown for years that the American public is generally loath to endorse military intervention. This has long been the case, and it is a skepticism that stretches back to the experience the nation was put through during the Vietnam War. More recently, the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, which initially enjoyed strong public support, have come to be viewed far more negatively and the public has become far more skeptical about the wisdom of military interventionism. In that regard, President Trump tapped into public opinion during the campaign when he expressed skepticism about military interventionism, something that the poll also reflects:

[W]hile there is little public support overall for Trump’s decision, he is trying to tap a vein of U.S. public opinion that is skeptical of the country’s numerous military entanglements overseas. Two in three voters, 67 percent, agree that the U.S. is engaged in too many foreign conflicts, the poll shows.

At the same time, voters will support foreign intervention under certain circumstances. Nearly as many voters, 65 percent, say they agree with the statement, “The U.S. needs to be involved in foreign conflicts to support our allies, fight terrorism and maintain our foreign policy interests.”

Given the numbers above and the general public skepticism about interventionism that we’ve seen in the past decade, the negative reaction to the President’s decision is somewhat surprising. I suspect that in part it is due to the fact that the early reporting on the matter has made clear the extent to which the withdrawal is being conducted in a manner that is damaging American interests and the extent to which it has led to what can only be called a cowardly abandonment of an American ally.

Another possibility is that Americans are generally turning against the President when it comes to policy matters because of their negative opinion of him. Looking at the numbers, the President remains in the same negative territory he has long been in when it comes to job approval and the same holds true for his general favorability vs. unfavorability numbers. Additionally, the President’s job approval when it comes to foreign policy is negative and has been for quite some time. This could be a function of that disdain for Trump, as well as an indication that the American people know a dumb decision when they see one.

As I’ve said before, withdrawal from Syria is a good idea. However, it should be done in a manner that doesn’t damage American national interests, doesn’t reward our adversaries, and doesn’t abandon an ally that has fought beside us in the fight. The policy the Administration adopted accomplishes all three of these things at once.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, National Security, Public Opinion Polls, Terrorism, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Given the numbers above and the general public skepticism about interventionism that we’ve seen in the past decade, the negative reaction to the President’s decision is somewhat surprising.

    The majority of Americans don’t like the idea of stabbing allies in the back, which is exactly what happened here. It’s that simple.

    As I’ve said before, withdrawal from Syria is a good idea. However, it should be done in a manner that doesn’t damage American national interests, doesn’t reward our adversaries, and doesn’t abandon an ally that has fought beside us in the fight.


  2. reid says:

    Like OHB said, people easily grasp the concept of betraying an ally. A lot of people probably also understand how it was good for everyone but us and the Kurds.

  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    The big winner is Iran. Assad is still a long way from status quo ante. And Russia ‘getting’ Syria is one of those be careful what you wish for moments. Here’s your birthday present, Vladimir: it’s a scorpion.

    But Iran will now hold sway over Iraq and Syria and inevitably increase its hold over Lebanon. The Turks are obsessing over the Kurds and they’re going to get Iranians on their southern border. At the same time Iranian Revolutionary Guards will be able to load a truck full of missiles and drive it unmolested across Iraq and Syria right to Hezbollah.

    And a smaller but important issue, we’ve always had a sort of fifth column inside of Iran – the Iranian Kurds. I’m guessing that’s no longer the case.

  4. CSK says:

    Well, what did anyone expect? There are no Trump Towers, AFAIK, in Kurdish territory. What have the Kurds done for Trump lately?

  5. MarkedMan says:

    I would like it if the kids kept their bathroom clean. However that doesn’t mean I would applaud them if they did so by never using it and sh*tting on the kitchen table and p*ssing in the milk jug.

    Trump. Syria. Same thing.

  6. JKB says:

    Eventually, the media will grow bored with the Turkish/Syria story despite the priorities of their sponsors in the IC/DoD to keep their cash flowing the Beltway bandits who profit from having troops in regional tribal conflicts. And when it falls out of the yellow journalism, it will fall out of the minds of voters.

    Beyond that, people will increasingly become informed about who, what, in northern Syria.

    But the present uproar is about an entirely different Kurdish political institution, which the Obama administration tapped in 2014 to fight ISIS—that’s the Democratic Union Party (PYD) with its military wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). This is the Syrian franchise of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Marxist outfit that has been at war with Turkey since 1984. The PKK is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths and is listed by the U.S. State Department, European Union, and Turkey as a terrorist organization.

    After Obama administration officials counseled YPG leadership to camouflage the group’s roots in the PKK, they rebranded themselves as the Syrian Democratic Forces. The promise of U.S. arms and funds brought Arabs under the SDF banner, but the organization’s command structure is dominated by the PKK.

  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    Well, if we’re spilling truth about the Kurds, let’s talk about our good friends the Turks. Before the Nazis had their first genocidal wet dream, the Turks were showing the way by committing genocide against the Armenians. One of their favorite tricks was to march entire Armenian villages into the desert and leave them there, men, women and children, to die of thirst.

    The Turks continue to deny the historical facts. They continue to threaten Armenians, and if they get the chance they’ll do to the Kurds what they did to the Armenians. So quite frankly if the Turks occasionally get blowed up by the Kurds, cry me a river. And when we invaded Iraq it was the Turks who refused to help and the Kurds who fought our battles there and in Syria.

  8. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Hitler cited the Armenian genocide as an instance of the world forgetting atrocities, as he assumed the world would forget his.

    And the Turks fought with the Nazis.

  9. JKB says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The Kurds are not homogeneous, especially politically. The Iraq Kurds are not the same as the Syrian Kurds and the Iraq Kurds were willing to enter into a coalition government, the Syrian Kurds have apparently been unwilling to do that in Syria.

    But your comment just illustrates that American troops don’t need to be in this tribal, regional conflict, except to enrich the Beltway Bandits.

    The Kurds are an ethnic minority spread across the Middle East, from Syria in the West, through Turkey and Iraq, to Iran in the east, and further divided into various political groupings. America’s longtime ally among the Kurds is the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, comprising the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The KRG’s Peshmerga militia has fought alongside U.S. troops in Iraq.

  10. Michael Reynolds says:

    Yes, I’m aware of the divisions amongst Kurds. Just as I am aware of the same amongst that obscure tribe known as Americans. Kurds of all stripes will know that we have betrayed them. The American soldiers now forced to drive shame-faced through crowds of Kurds calling them traitors will know as well. We have dishonored ourselves before the world.

    But as an apologist for your criminal and treasonous president you would of course know nothing of honor or integrity.

  11. grumpy realist says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Oh, am quite sure that we’ll end up pushing this betrayal under the rug as well, as we’ve done with all our other historical examples. Because Americans are the Good Guys, y’know. So we can’t possibly betray anyone.

  12. mattbernius says:

    Wow, so it’s only taken you what? 3 weeks to come up with this weak ass defense? But hey, at least a defender of the president finally responded to the topic – so kudos for that.

    BTW this is like the time you said it was OK for Saudi Arabia to assassinate Jamal Khashoggi because he had it coming due to a connection to the Muslim Brotherhood.

  13. Gustopher says:


    Eventually, the media will grow bored with the Turkish/Syria story despite the priorities of their sponsors in the IC/DoD to keep their cash flowing the Beltway bandits who profit from having troops in regional tribal conflicts. And when it falls out of the yellow journalism, it will fall out of the minds of voters.

    If a tree falls in the woods, and people hear it, but then go on and do other things, did it make a sound?

    Beyond that, people will increasingly become informed about who, what, in northern Syria.

    So, your argument is that people will simultaneously get bored of it and stop paying attention, and that they will become more informed?

    Wow, that’s some grade A dumb thinking right there.

    That’s grade A dumb thinking even before we get to the question of whether we should judge an action by its short term media effect, or whether we should be concerned with the action itself.

  14. Scott says:

    I have never thought we should involve ourselves in Syria and I’m glad we are pulling out. The situation there is so complex that we cannot unwind it into a coherent policy. I think, if I wandered back into the OTB archives, that I even argued that it is preferable for the US that Assad resume control over Syria because of all the factionalization.

    However, between all the parties, we had to deal with ISIS. They were pretty well contained back in 2015 and under attack by the Kurds, Turkey, Iran, Iraq with substantial support from the US.

    WRT to the Kurds, they did some heavy lifting and they have national aspirations. BTW, even though there may be political divisions amongst the Kurds, nationalism comes before religion which comes before politics as an people’s identity. A mistake the US makes over and over.

    Our betrayal, was, perhaps, inevitable. It reminded me of the scene in Lawrence of Arabia where in General Allenby’s office, Allenby, Prince Faisal, and Dryden basically agreed to hang Lawrence out to dry because he outlived his usefulness. Col Brighton was so shocked that he had to excuse himself.

  15. Gustopher says:

    @JKB: But, while you’re here, what should a proudly nationalist United States do about nationalist movements that cross borders in areas where we have a strategic interest?

    Do we do nothing, and just ignore the “tribal conflicts” that can lead to genocide and destabilization and create the conditions to birth new terrorist movements?

    Do we make use of the “tribal conflicts” sporadically, and then abandon our allies at the drop of a hat?

    Do we send some troops to secure the oil which we will decide what to do with later?

    Do people — any people, not just the Kurds — have a right to self-government? Or is ethic cleansing just fine and dandy?

    Can Seattle send armies into Eastern Washington to drive the deplorables into Idaho, and kill any who don’t run fast enough?

  16. Scott says:


    As long as I’m a literary kick for analogies, let me offer this as a stand in for our foreign policy:

    They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

  17. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    Pointless observation: I’d actually become convinced that some of our more notable trolls were just Russians stirring up trouble. Their lack of ability to respond even incoherently on the Syria issue the last few weeks at least has taught me they are actual (clueless) Americans.

    Cult indeed: they literally cannot figure out how to respond because the Dear Leader is saying one thing while literally everyone else, including the rest of cult leadership, is saying something else. And they end up rather pathetically waiting for someone to tell them what to think. They really are both brainwashed and helpless right now. We are so screwed as a country-we simply aren’t living in the same reality any more and while eventually actual facts will matter, there is going to be a ton of pain and probably violence between now and then.

    Glad I’m getting old and don’t have kids.

  18. Gustopher says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican:

    Glad I’m getting old and don’t have kids.

    That’s my solution to a lot of things.

  19. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @CSK: Actually, no. Ataturk’s successors (he was dead by the time WW2 started) remembered that their alliance with Germany in the Great War was largely responsible for costing them their empire in Asia. They straddled the fence, and came into the war on the Allied side at the very last moment (March, 1945).

  20. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Scott: That’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie. As I recall, the dialogue went something like this.
    FAISAL: Lawrence is a double-edged sword. I suspect we are equally glad to be rid of him.
    ALLENBY: I thought I was a hard man.
    FAISAL: You are only a general. I must be a king.

  21. CSK says:

    @SC_Birdflyte: My error. I was thinking of the Treaty of Friendship, signed in June 1941.

  22. JKB says:


    Very heartfelt. But I notice you never bring up the slave markets for Black Africans that operate in Libya after Hillary celebrated the murder of Gaddafi due to her, Obama and Susan Rice’s “Right to Protect” UN doctrine, which was only cover for Britain and France to get better oil contracts.

    By the new year, this will be of no more interest to Democrats or the media than the slave markets facilitated by Obama’s “foreign policy”.

  23. Gustopher says:

    @JKB: So, your answer is that if we are capable of ignoring suffering, we should?

    And, FYI, I opposed toppling Gaddafi because it sent the wrong message to North Korea, Iran, and everyone else with interest in nuclear weapons. Libya was going to be a shit show either way.

    But, I will notice that Señor Trump has done nothing about Libya, nor have any of the Republicans.

    Also, aren’t those refugees that are being enslaved? Should Libya just build a wall? Should Seattle build a wall on our Idaho border when we push out our deplorables?

  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @JKB: The Kurds Americans are not homogeneous, especially politically.

    Now, what does either position have to do with abandoning allies to end of having reversed the situation you sent troops to die for?

  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Scott: Oooh., Like it! 🙂

  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @JKB: “Well, Gustopher, whataboutthat?”

    (You sure showed him. You real tough guy.)