Poll Finds Majority Support For Missile Strikes On Syria

A majority of Americans support last week's airstrikes in Syria but are skeptical of any expansion beyond that.


A new poll finds that a majority of Americans support last week’s airstrikes against Syria, but are skeptical of military action beyond that:

Fifty-seven percent of Americans approve of the airstrike against Syrian military targets – calling immoral the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons that led to the strike – but most are leery of any military involvement beyond airstrikes, a CBS News poll shows.

President Trump’s overall approval rating edged up, though most respondents voice unease about his approach to Syria going forward, and say Congress must authorize further actions there.

Few Americans are willing to see the U.S. get involved in Syria beyond the use of airstrikes. Only 18 percent would want ground troops. Half of Republicans would limit involvement to either airstrikes or diplomacy, and Democrats largely would focus on diplomatic efforts.

Seven-in-ten Americans think Mr. Trump needs to get authorization from Congress before any further action against Syria; more than half of Republicans agree.

Americans support last week’s U.S. strike in part because most say the use of chemical weapons is immoral. There’s more division on whether it constitutes a direct threat to the U.S.

Back in 2013, most Republicans opposed the idea of airstrikes against Syria by President Obama, and half of Democrats were opposed then, as well.

Since the strike. Mr. Trump’s overall job approval rating has seen an increase to 43 percent.  Slightly fewer now disapprove than did before. Forty-nine percent now disapprove of his performance.

The increase in approval is driven mainly by independents, who are now at 42 percent approval up from 34 percent, while Republicans have held steady.

There is still some concern about the president’s ability to handle the Syria situation going forward. Nearly eight-in-ten Republicans express confidence in Mr. Trump on that, while most Democrats do not. Independents are more uneasy about the handling going forward even as they are approving of the strike last week.

Given the images that quickly went around the world after last week’s chemical weapons attacks, it’s not entirely surprising that there would be majority support for the rather limited airstrikes that the United States engaged in on Thursday evening. For one thing, the image of victims such as women and children being treated for exposure to Sarin gas were fairly shocking and there’s a long-standing distaste for the impact that such weapons have on civilians. For another, the attacks that the U.S. engaged in were rather limited and aimed primarily at the delivery base for the attack itself rather than being something more wide-ranging that could have posed the risk of the kind of collateral damage that tends to be counterproductive to say the very least. Most importantly, though, for a public that clearly remains wary of war thanks to the long experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, a limited airstrike such as this falls within the range of acceptable military action that doesn’t put American forces at risk. Finally, for the time being, the Administration has not made an argument for deeper American involvement in the Syrian civil war, although there were signs over the weekend of a battle inside the White Houe over whether or not the U.S. should prioritize the removal of Bashar Assad from power over fighting ISIS.

One question this poll doesn’t really answer is whether this action is likely to have any real impact on the President’s overall job approval and the perception that his Administration has been rather rudderless during its on-going first 100 days in office. So far, there has not been nearly enough time for the immediate impact of the strikes to register in the job approval numbers that are updated on a daily basis, but the initial evidence seems to be that any impact is likely to be limited at best. More importantly, while this story has at least pushed headlines about things such as the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016  election and Trump campaign communications with and ties to Russian officials and business interests both before and after the election, that won’t remain the case forever. It seems inevitable that these stories have only gone away temporarily, and that the weaknesses inside the White House that have made apparent since Inauguration Day are likely to resurface sooner rather than later.

One interesting thing to note from this poll is the fact that majority support for the airstrikes isn’t larger than this poll shows. Ordinarily, an attack like this would end up with a far larger majority rallying around the President. Presumably, a part of that has to do with the fact that there are still strong public doubts about the President’s judgment and his Administration’s ability to handle matters. That being said, the limited nature of the commitment likely helps reassure a public still unfamiliar with how this President will handle world affairs. So far, notwithstanding some of his rhetoric during the campaign, Trump’s initial forays onto the world stage as President have been fairly limited and benign, perhaps thanks to the advice being given to him by people such as Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. If and when that changes, we could see a still war-weary public turn against Trump rather quickly, especially if things start to go badly.


FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, National Security, Public Opinion Polls, 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. Grumpy Realist says:

    I think the reason there’s not more support for the air strikes is because a lot of people suspect that it was kabuki theatre.

    Expensive piece of military performance art and the Republicans hammer on about the NEA?

  2. dmhlt says:

    Have to agree with Paul Krugman:

    Publicity Stunts Aren’t Policy

  3. grumpy realist says:

    Good article on the Hirsute Yam and how we shouldn’t expect things to get better.

  4. grumpy realist says:

    From Krugman’s article:

    The Trump administration now knows that it can always crowd out reporting about its scandals and failures by bombing someone.

    Yup. Which is why I’m just as disgusted with the media peeing its pants in glee over this Syrian kabuki bombing run as I am with Trump not having the brains to think What Happens In Step Two.

  5. al-Ameda says:

    Same old story.
    If the military action taken is short, no American lives lost, or no American lives were at stake, then most Americans will support the action.

  6. Guarneri says:

    On Saturday their was a post and much outrage over Kuchner and his paperwork.

    I’m shocked! But there doesn’t seem to be the same outrage over Rices unmasking, or lying about it. Or this:

    “…… the UN had “sufficient evidence” as far back as three years ago that not only did Syria still have chemical weapons, they were still using them in offensive operations. Almost all of them occurred after Kerry’s claim, and all of them occurred before Rice’s statement. All during and past that time, the Obama administration simply lied about the situation in order to defend their supposed “smart power” approach and leading from behind when it came to Syria and chemical weapons — and as Rice demonstrated, they kept lying about it to the last day of their tenure in office.

    All due respect to Mr. Weber, who served at the DoD for most of Obama’s term, but there is a third possibility — that Obama and Kerry got played by Putin and Assad, and then lied to cover it up. The attack last week on Idlib following years of shabby and self-serving untruths from Weber’s bosses makes it pretty clear that this third possibility is most likely the correct explanation.”

    There was even a reference to dumb auditors. I wonder if Obama is dumber than an auditor, or just a flat out liar.

    I’ll check offensive YouTube videos for the answer……….

  7. KM says:

    The increase in approval is driven mainly by independents, who are now at 42 percent approval up from 34 percent, while Republicans have held steady.

    The “independents” in my family (those too ashamed to ID as Republican) were thrilled with this. I got 2 separate calls at work to tell me to go watch on TV “a President with balls.” When I pointed out in the aftermath how useless of a gesture this was, I was told it showed how we weren’t going to be “pushed around anymore”.

    The segment that votes for Trump as an agent of FU to the System will love this since it proves he’s going to start sh^t against those they can’t stand. The segment that feels the world is crushing them under its heel love it for its manliness and that he’s not gonna take sh^t from nobody. Everybody else is going what is this sh^t, what was the point and how big of a sh^tstorm is this going to cause?

  8. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    That was great.

  9. KM says:

    @Guarneri :
    Maybe you should stop to think that your outrage over “unmasking” is you admitting you’re angry someone caught doing something questionable instead of them actually doing something questionable. There wouldn’t be any unmasking controversy if they’d stayed away from people where this would be an issue. Don’t get pissed somebody yells your name if you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar.

    As for Syria, the GOP is a flaming bag of hypocrisy on this. They didn’t want intervention, they made a fuss about Obama dealing himself in at any capacity, they tell refugees to go F themselves when fleeing horror for years and have the utter nerve to want to do something only when that horror in the form of dead babies that could have been save are suddenly on TV. Too little, too late and it changes nothing. But hey, Obama!!

  10. Pch101 says:

    If Obama had attacked airbases without consent, then the right would have condemned him for acting like a tyrant.

    Now that Trump has attacked airbases without consent, the right condemns Obama for having lacked resolve.

    The hypocrisy of modern American conservatism is so shameless and rooted in bigotry that its proponents cannot be offered any quarter. This is not a reasonable alternative point of view that adds necessary balance to a political system, but a mean-spirited cancer that needs to be destroyed.

  11. al-Ameda says:


    On Saturday their was a post and much outrage over Kuchner and his paperwork.
    I’m shocked! But there doesn’t seem to be the same outrage over Rices unmasking, or lying about it.

    You’re probably shocked to “learn” that Rice had the authority in her role as NSA to the President, request ‘unmasking’. As you would have ‘learned’ eventually, all NSA’s do have that right. But really, please continue being ‘shocked.’


    The “independents” in my family (those too ashamed to ID as Republican) were thrilled with this. I got 2 separate calls at work to tell me to go watch on TV “a President with balls.” When I pointed out in the aftermath how useless of a gesture this was, I was told it showed how we weren’t going to be “pushed around anymore”.

    Yeah. My father, a brother, and 1 sister (ardent Trump supporters) pretty much said the same thing when this subject came up this weekend. I reminded them that in 2013 Obama wanted to take unilateral action to bomb bases and encampments in Syria but Congressional Republicans refused to grant him authority to do so. What followed was basically ‘Obama couldn’t be trusted.’

    To those who – like Nick Kristof (NYT), who really ought to know better – say Democrats need to do some ‘soul searching,’ need to try to better understand Trump supporters? I say, enough of that encounter group & focus group bulls***. I do understand Trump supporters – they’re most of my family and friends of family, and no amount of “let’s reason together” is going to make a difference.

  12. Gustopher says:

    @Guarneri: no one cares about Susan Rice being caught unmasking because this has only been reported in the fever swamps that regularly Make Shit Up. Also, people care less about leaks than treason, go figure.

    As to the chemical weapons — we did get a large amount of chemical weapons out of the area as part of the agreement. There was no stomach for military action in congress at the time, so this was the best we could do, short of bypassing congressional authority.

    If Assad continued to possess and use chemical weapons, and the Obama administration knew, then they should have said something, and asked congress for military authority. If this was classified, they may have done so without public statements, and found that nothing had changed in congress, and that it would hurt the credibility of the US to make this public. Or they may have been asleep at the wheel. Congress should investigate.

  13. HarvardLaw92 says:

    On a related note, anybody happen to catch the Sunday talk shows?

    (Before you go there, Drew, I have an intern record them for me …)

    It seems that Nimrod Haley and Nimrod Tillerson can’t agree on policy regarding regime change and went on TV spouting competing messages.

    This really is the gang that couldn’t shoot straight … 🙄

  14. HarvardLaw92 says:


    I was told it showed how we weren’t going to be “pushed around anymore

    One dimensional thinking, and not IMO unusual for that bunch. They’re evidently incapable of strategic or multi-level thinking. For them, it seems that every problem in existence can be resolved through belligerence.

  15. gVOR08 says:

    @Gustopher: I confess I’m not following this obsessively, like some people (G), but as far as I’m aware there is an unsubstantiated allegation that Rice unmasked an undisclosed somebody, over talking to an undisclosed somebody about an undisclosed something. No real allegation that she shared whatever it may have been with anyone who didn’t have a need to know. And Rice has been accused for years of doing, well nothing really, making her name a Pavlov bell to the feeble minded.

    It’s impossible for Rice, or anyone else, to refute any of this as no one has any idea what we’re supposed to be talking about. And the Trump aides and Nunes, who claim to know, have so far refused to tell anyone else, including people who have a legitimate need to know and are cleared to know.

    That about right?

  16. KM says:

    @al-Ameda @HarvardLaw92 :
    Since I’m not 100% behind Alpha Trump’s bombing of dem evul Syrians, I must like dead children and being seen as weak.. Their lead in was a belligerent “Well, don’t you care he killed kids?!” and my reply was “Yes, but I would have made sure those kids weren’t there in the first place to be gassed. So when are we taking in some refugees?” Room went real quiet real quick. Just to rub it in, I pulled up the flyer from our church, who now having an attack of conscience, is sponsoring some 100 refugees to come to the area and need space for them. It’s the Godly thing to do, Jesus said welcome the stranger and we do have that spare room downstairs…. I was very politely asked to leave 🙂

    Suspiciously, all the military men and women in the family have no opinion on this – it’s all the chickenhawks that didn’t serve that are screaming how awesome this is. Methinks they can smell the oncoming sh^tstorm and want no part of it. Thank god I have no relatives in active service right now but several of my friends’ spouses will be in the line of fire should Trump want a war.

  17. michael reynolds says:

    This is missile theater and a certain percentage of the population is always going to love seeing Tomahawks fly.

    It is pretty clear now that Nikki Haley and Rex Tillerson are competing in the open to force a policy (any policy!) on Trump whose policy thus far is self-contradictory gibberish. Meanwhile Bannon commands a fifth column isolationist/Nazi wing within the White House, and Jared the real estate agent is in the “globalist” role – ‘globalist’ meaning, “Dirty Jew” in Bannon-speak. #FireKushner was number one on Twitter, and it wasn’t being pushed by liberals.

    Are we doing something in Syria? Who knows? The Trump regime is not capable of answering that question. Who knew Syria could be so complicated? Aside from, you know, everyone?

    Trump’s supposed Secretary of State signals Assad he’s in the clear, Assad drops Sarin, Trump bombs Assad in the gentlest possible way, Nikki Haley says, “We’re comin’ for you, Bashar!” And SecState Tillerson says, “No, we’re not!” And Trump scowl-pouts in what he hopes is a manly way, while his house troll Bannon incites the alt-right Twitter mob to attack Jared who is busy modeling the Armani line of flak jackets.

    Help us, Ivanka! You look nice and say nice things sometimes, won’t you somehow take charge of this incoherent, incompetent shitshow?

  18. SenyorDave says:

    @michael reynolds: You are a write, maybe you can publish Cliffnotes on the Trump presidency. In a generation something like that might be necessary to understand what actually went on during 2017 – 2020 (I’m praying that we as a nation can’t be stupid enough to re-elect this ignorant buffoon, but who knows).

  19. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    For what it’s worth – this is exactly how the Trump Organization was run for the entire time that I was involved with work for them. I can’t imagine that situation has improved.

    And you wonder why it’s essentially a bankrupt disaster?

    Stay tuned – this current mess in the White House will get worse, not better. Hope you remembered to order your popcorn.

  20. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Thank god I have no relatives in active service right now but several of my friends’ spouses will be in the line of fire should Trump want a war.

    Given what I know about this person, I would say that is a question of when, not a question of if.

  21. grumpy realist says:

    @michael reynolds: Considering that there’s rumors that Ivanka was the one who egged on Dear Old Daddy to BOMB BOMB BOMB, you may want to reconsider that last sentence.

  22. Modulo Myself says:

    Our only hope with Trump administration is that ends with everyone double-crossing each other into oblivion. The Republican party has no social capital. It’s all just money and anger. The most accurate thing Trump has ever said about his base was that they would support him if shot someone on Fifth Ave. All these guys want to do is get away with it. It’s like a mild-mannered accountant who hires a hitman to kill his boss in order to cover up the fact that he’s been skimming money off the books for years. The hitman kills the boss but ends up kidnapping the guy’s wife because he wants more money, so the guy fakes his wife’s death, and tries to collect on the insurance. He is then chased down by the hitman who shoots him. The hitman is then shot by the police. Nobody knows about the wife, so she’s locked in a room in a cabin in the Everglades, unable to get out.

    That’s the Trump administration. Somewhere in the greed and desperate thinking are brief appearances of ideas like Syria or Health Care or North Korea. But it’s all just about money and trying to get away with it.

  23. HarvardLaw92 says:


    it’s all the chickenhawks that didn’t serve that are screaming how awesome this is

    Isn’t that always the case, though? For them, it’s the best war movie EVAR 🙄

  24. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    The Obama doctrine was; don’t do anything stupid.
    Apparently Comb-over Donnie is intent on doing the opposite.
    If US foreign policy is going to continue to be shaped by the unpredictable whims of a 70 year old child, based solely upon what he sees on cable news…there is no way it ends well for us.

  25. michael reynolds says:

    The war-making power is now in the hands of Fox and Friends.

  26. michael reynolds says:


    Never, ever use the word liar in a disapproving way again. You support the biggest liar in the history of American politics. You are a big fan of lies. You’re like one of the GOP’s long list of child molesters and adulterers prattling on about morality. You support lies. You believe lies. You repeat lies. You have no interest whatsoever in truth, you just hate liberals and want a tax cut. That’s the beginning, middle and end of you, Drew: spite and greed.

  27. wr says:

    @Guarneri: Yeah, if I were quoting from the morons at Hot Air, I wouldn’t include a link or say who I was quoting, either.

  28. Robert C says:

    Trump just helped ISIS, and his ratings go up….we get the leaders we deserve.

    Robert C

  29. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    Half of Republicans would limit involvement to either airstrikes or diplomacy (emphasis added)

    But not both?

    For them, it seems that every problem in existence can be resolved through belligerence.

    OOKAAAAAY, Not both it is.

    Trump disapproval rating dropping below 50%–Mission Accomplished!

  30. bill says:

    @Guarneri: only an idiot would think assad got rid of ALL his chemical weapons…….and now they know who they are(and not just john kerry). sure, denial takes a while to set in, but who ever trusts the enemy?

    @al-Ameda: great point, reminds me of the first iraq war, it was like a “happy hour” war for most as we had nightly news with video’s of smart bombs taking out various radar sites and such. we get squeamish when our troops die in a war though….especially if there’s really nothing in it for us.

  31. teve tory says:

    Dude, anyone with a basic science education, like many millions of my fellow americans, can cook up chlorine gas with little more than a trip to the local Kroger. Assad having chemical weapons in 2017 is no evidence that he had them at the end of 2013.

  32. Terrye Cravens says:

    I can remember when Trump said that all Saddam had to do was “throw a little gas around” and the world went crazy. He then went on to praise Saddam. I don’t think for one minute that he gives a rat’s ass about the Syrian people. He just needs to help his poll numbers.

    I saw another poll that put support at 51%. That surprised me. I honestly thought it would be more. Everybody hates Assad.

    But why leave the runway intact? The whole thing was just sort of anti climatic.

  33. michael reynolds says:

    @Terrye Cravens:

    The runway is intact because anything more might have actually pissed off Vladimir Putin.

    Trump does not give a single damn about gassed babies. He has no plan, no policy, no clue when it comes to Syria. He needed some missile theater to distract from the corruption and incompetence of his administration, and as an attempt to inoculate him against charges that he is Putin’s butt boy.

    Trump gets a distraction, Assad gets to play victim to his own people, Putin gets to sell Assad better planes to replace the ones we supposedly damaged, and Raytheon gets a replacement order for Tomahawks. And all is right with the world.

  34. Pch101 says:

    Trump is pivoting to the GOP establishment in the wake of his failed healthcare bill.

    Trump bombed Syria in the hopes that it could help him to get other legislation passed. The establishment likes bombs, so he gave them bombs.

    Knowing Trump, he’ll pivot back to the base at a later date without ever acknowledging that he had flipped.

  35. gVOR08 says:


    Trump bombed Syria in the hopes that it could help him to get other legislation passed. The establishment likes bombs, so he gave them bombs.

    That sounds like an actual plan from Trump. I demand evidence.

  36. Donald Sensing says:
  37. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    There are those who think that Trump, and the US media, is being played by Al Qaeda/ISIS.
    The same way Bush and Cheney got played by bin Laden.
    Not difficult to believe.

  38. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    And apparently Ivanka is the one who decided to attack Syria.
    Maybe while dad was busy fantasizing about her???
    Didn’t ever envision actually living in a Banana Republic….