Electoral Politics & U.S. Military Intervention in Syria By Peter Gaughan
Donald Trump’s response to the suspected chemical attack in Syria last month appears to have divided the American electorate. Polling from the Pew Research Center shows that Americans generally supported missile strikes in Syria, though dissent existed among Democrats.
58 percent of Americans supported the strikes, 36 percent did not. Support was higher among Republicans (77 percent), and lower among Democrats (45 percent), who essentially split on the issue.
U.S. foreign policy in Syria was quickly overshadowed by North Korea in recent weeks, though the deadly and prolonged civil war shows no signs of ending.
Most Americans do not believe that President Trump (61 percent) has “a clear plan for dealing with the situation in Syria.” Again, this breaks sharply along partisan lines. Most Republicans (61 percent) think Trump has a plan, while most Democrats (85 percent) do not.
Interestingly, Democratic leadership in the Senate and House were not entirely in unison with their public response to the missile strikes.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted: “A pinpointed, limited action to punish and hopefully deter Assad from doing this again is appropriate, but the administration has to be careful about not getting us into a greater and more involved war in Syria.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stated: “This latest chemical weapons attack against the Syrian people was a brutally inhumane war crime that demands a strong, smart and calculated response. One night of airstrikes is not a substitute for a clear, comprehensive Syria strategy.”
Politically, Democrats will likely seek to connect this issue with their base’s opposition to President Trump, generally, and his foreign policy, in particular. This will be pursued in tandem with efforts to avoid alienating the majority of Americans who twice supported air strikes in Syria.
Peter J. Gaughan V is a research assistant at The Utica College Center of Public Affairs and Election Research and student of government and geoscience.