Republicans, Independents Unite on Syria Opposition

General war weariness brings disillusioned independents in line with Obama opponents on foreign policy.

About 50 protestors line the roadway to voice their opposition to the possibility of U.S. military intervention in Syria, during a rally on Monday, Sept. 9, 2013 in Miami. President Barack Obama has called on Congress to approve the use of military force in the wake of a deadly chemical weapons attack his administration blames on the Syrian government. 
National Journal
Steven Shepard
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Steven Shepard
Sept. 12, 2013, 3:30 p.m.

This week’s United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll, which found deep and broad res­ist­ance to pro­posed U.S. mil­it­ary ac­tion against the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment, showed the ex­tent to which Re­pub­lic­ans and in­de­pend­ents are now aligned in their op­pos­i­tion to U.S. for­eign in­ter­ven­tion un­der Pres­id­ent Obama.

Fifty-five per­cent of Amer­ic­ans — giv­en four op­tions ran­ging from do­ing noth­ing to a full-scale mil­it­ary strike to help the rebels over­throw Bashar al-As­sad’s gov­ern­ment — would prefer the U.S. do noth­ing and stay out of the Syr­i­an civil war. While a strong plur­al­ity of Demo­crats, 48 per­cent, chose this op­tion, Re­pub­lic­ans and in­de­pend­ents saw vir­tu­ally eye-to-eye, with 60 per­cent and 58 per­cent, re­spect­ively, say­ing they want the U.S. to do noth­ing.

Moreover, on each of the oth­er five ques­tions re­lated to the pro­posed Syr­i­an in­ter­ven­tion in the poll, there was little or no stat­ist­ic­al dif­fer­ence in the re­sponses of Re­pub­lic­ans and in­de­pend­ents, while Demo­crats ten­ded to be more sup­port­ive of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s po­s­i­tion.

How did Re­pub­lic­ans and in­de­pend­ents come to oc­cupy the same ground on cer­tain as­pects of U.S. for­eign policy? It starts with a gen­er­al sense of war wear­i­ness that has acutely af­fected in­de­pend­ents — those Amer­ic­ans who tend to be most dis­il­lu­sioned with polit­ics and gov­ern­ment to be­gin with.

In a CNN/USA Today Gal­lup poll con­duc­ted in late Feb­ru­ary of 2003, just be­fore the U.S. began a ground and air as­sault of Ir­aq, 59 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans favored go­ing to war with Ir­aq to re­move Sad­dam Hus­sein, while 37 per­cent were op­posed. The per­cent­age of in­de­pend­ents who favored war (52 per­cent) was halfway between the per­cent­ages of Demo­crats (22 per­cent) and Re­pub­lic­ans (82 per­cent) who favored the ef­fort. Since Ir­aq, in­de­pend­ents have soured on U.S. mil­it­ary com­mit­ments: They were less ap­prov­ing than Demo­crats or Re­pub­lic­ans of mil­it­ary ac­tion in Libya, for ex­ample.

So how did Re­pub­lic­an sup­port sink to match those who don’t identi­fy with a party? The Syr­ia ef­fort be­came as­so­ci­ated with Obama. Over Labor Day week­end, as the ad­min­is­tra­tion began to make its case, sup­port for strikes among Re­pub­lic­ans (43 per­cent) out­paced both Demo­crats (42 per­cent) and in­de­pend­ents (30 per­cent) in an ABC News/Wash­ing­ton Post poll. A week later, GOP sup­port col­lapsed to 24 per­cent, a tick lower than among in­de­pend­ents (26 per­cent).

The latest poll, con­duc­ted Sept. 5-8 by Prin­ceton Sur­vey Re­search As­so­ci­ates In­ter­na­tion­al, sur­veyed 1,002 adults and has a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or minus 3.6 per­cent­age points.

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