Polls: Arming Syrian rebels not popular

Posted at 5:44 PM, Jun 18, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-18 17:44:49-04

(CNN) — Even as President Barack Obama seeks to rally support for his plan to further assist Syrian rebels at this week’s Group of Eight conference in Northern Ireland, polls show Americans back home casting a wary eye on providing arms to opposition forces in the conflict-torn nation.

In a Gallup survey conducted over the weekend, 54% of adults said they disapproved of the Obama administration’s decision to provide military aid to rebel fighters in Syria, compared to 37% who said they approved of the move.

The announcement of the new lethal aid to Syria came on Thursday, when the White House said it had confirmed that chemical weapons were used by President Bashar al-Assad against rebels and his own people, and thereby crossed a “red line.” While the Obama administration did not specify what type of military support it would provide, sources have told CNN that small arms and ammunition are part of the package.

Republicans were more likely in Gallup’s poll to disapprove of arming Syrian rebels – 63% said they disagreed with the new U.S. stance. Among Democrats, 42% disapproved of the change in policy.

Even before Thursday’s announcement, a majority of Americans stood opposed to ramping up lethal support to rebels in Syria. A Pew Research Center poll conducted partly before the news showed 70% opposed to sending arms to Syrian rebels. Twenty percent said they favored the move.

That poll reflected a drop in support since March, when 29% of Americans surveyed said they supported sending arms to Syrian opposition forces.

In this week’s Pew poll, 68% said the U.S. military was already overcommitted, and thus unable to intervene effectively in Syria. Sixty percent suggested the opposition forces receiving American arms may not be any better than the Assad regime.

The Gallup survey was conducted by telephone from June 15-16 from 1,015 adults, and the sampling error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

In Pew’s survey, 1,512 adults were surveyed by telephone between June 12-16. The sampling error was plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.