Most Americans continue to oppose sending weapons to Syrian rebels after the Obama administration announced it would do so last week, according to several new polls. And a HuffPost/YouGov poll finds that even among those who believe that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against rebels, more people oppose sending weapons than support it.
According to the new HuffPost/YouGov poll, 53 percent of Americans say that the U.S. military should not provide weapons to rebels in Syria, compared to 19 percent that agree with the arms support. Respondents to the poll also opposed U.S. air strikes in Syria (48 percent to 19 percent) and sending U.S. troops to Syria (68 percent to 8 percent).
Not surprisingly, respondents also said that they disapproved of President Obama's decision to send weapons, by a 49 percent to 26 percent margin.
Two other polls released Monday had similar findings. A Pew Research Center poll found that 20 percent of respondents favored "The U.S. and its allies sending arms and military supplies to anti-government groups in Syria," while 70 percent said they were opposed. That survey suggests that support for arming rebels has dropped since March of 2012, when another Pew poll found 29 percent of Americans in support of providing weapons.
Similarly, a Gallup poll found that, by a 54 percent to 37 percent margin, most respondents disapprove of the Obama administration's "decision to supply direct military aid to Syrian rebels fighting against the government in Syria." In the Gallup survey, those paying the closest attention were slightly more likely to approve of the decision, with 44 percent saying that they approved and 54 percent saying they disapproved.
Respondents to the HuffPost/YouGov poll were more likely than not to believe that Syria has used chemical weapons against rebels, by a 51 percent to 6 percent margin, although another 43 percent said that they weren't sure. But even respondents who said that Syria had used chemical weapons were more likely to say that the U.S. should not send weapons to rebels, by a 49 percent to 29 percent margin.
The Pew survey suggests that war weariness and the belief that a rebel government may be no better than the current one are playing big roles in opposition to U.S. involvement of any sort. While some respondents to the Pew poll appear torn between arguments in favor of and against involvement in the conflict in Syria, more agreed with arguments presented against the conflict.
Sixty-eight percent of respondents agreed that "the U.S. military is already too overcommitted to get involved in another conflict," and 60 percent agreed that "the opposition groups in Syria may be no better than the current government."
On the other hand, 53 percent agreed that "it is important for the U.S. to support people who oppose authoritarian regimes" and 49 percent agreed that "the U.S. has a moral obligation to do what it can to stop the violence in Syria."
All three polls show that Democrats are more likely than Republicans or independents to say that the U.S. should be sending weapons and to approve of the decision to send them, but in the Pew and HuffPost/YouGov polls respondents were more likely to oppose than favor involvement, regardless of partisan affiliation. In the HuffPost/YouGov survey, Republicans opposed sending weapons by a 60 percent to 16 percent margin, independents by a 54 percent to 16 percent margin, and Democrats by a 45 percent to 25 percent margin.
In the Gallup poll, Democrats were somewhat more likely to say that they approved of Obama's decision to send military aid, by a 51 percent to 42 percent margin. A similar question in the HuffPost/YouGov poll found that Democrats were slightly more likely to approve than disapprove of Obama's decision, 39 percent to 33 percent. But 28 percent of Democrats in that survey said they were not sure how they viewed Obama's move. The HuffPost/YouGov question was also asked after a more general question -- not mentioning Obama -- on whether the U.S. should or should not send weapons.
The new HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted June 14-15 among 1,000 adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.