Americans Oppose Syria Strike, but Won’t Punish Lawmakers for Supporting It

United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll finds that Republicans would face the biggest risk of a voter backlash in party primaries.

Protesters against U.S. military action in Syria shout during a demonstration in front of the White House in Washington, Monday, Sept. 9, 2013. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama will address the nation regarding Syria. 
National Journal
Alex Roarty
Sept. 11, 2013, 6 p.m.

Law­makers have hemmed and hawed this month about wheth­er to sup­port a mil­it­ary strike against Syr­ia, anxious to avoid the polit­ic­al re­per­cus­sions of either de­cision. But it turns out most voters wouldn’t care enough either way to throw their rep­res­ent­at­ive out of of­fice.

Fifty-five per­cent of Amer­ic­ans say if their mem­ber of Con­gress voted for a pro­posed strike, it would not af­fect wheth­er they would sup­port the law­maker’s reelec­tion, ac­cord­ing to the latest United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll. That’s a test­a­ment to the is­sue’s ove­rhyped polit­ic­al im­plic­a­tions, des­pite this month’s fer­vent pub­lic de­bate over its mer­its.

In any case, Pres­id­ent Obama’s de­cision Tues­day night to delay the vote while he seeks a dip­lo­mat­ic solu­tion to Syr­ia’s use of chem­ic­al weapons might make the point moot. Des­pite the pub­lic’s apathy, many law­makers had already de­clared they would not sup­port the res­ol­u­tion, and it looked to face long odds in the House.

More adults did say sup­port­ing the strike would make them less likely to back their in­cum­bent. Just 13 per­cent of men and wo­men said back­ing it would make them more likely to sup­port the law­maker; double that num­ber, 26 per­cent, said they’d be less likely. Five per­cent of re­spond­ents said they didn’t know how to an­swer or re­fused to do so.

If there’s any risk with tak­ing a stance on Syr­ia, it comes from Re­pub­lic­an primary voters. Thirty-five per­cent of GOP mem­bers said they would be less in­clined to back their law­maker, while only 13 per­cent said they’d be more likely to sup­port their reelec­tion. Their an­ti­pathy helps ex­plain the rush of many Re­pub­lic­ans in of­fice to pub­licly de­clare their op­pos­i­tion to the strike.

Still, a plur­al­ity of re­spond­ents, 48 per­cent, said it wouldn’t af­fect their vote either way.

Sur­pris­ingly for the party that used to define it­self as an­ti­war, the Demo­crats are much less likely than Re­pub­lic­ans to op­pose the strike. An equal per­cent­age of them said they would be more likely to sup­port their law­maker as said they would be less likely—each at 17 per­cent. Sixty-one per­cent said it wouldn’t af­fect their de­cision at the bal­lot box either way.

Among in­de­pend­ents, 12 per­cent said they’d be more likely to back the law­maker; 29 per­cent said they’d be less in­clined to do so; and 61 per­cent said it wouldn’t af­fect their vote at all.

The poll was con­duc­ted by Prin­ceton Sur­vey Re­search As­so­ci­ates In­ter­na­tion­al. The group sur­veyed 1,002 adults by land­line and cell phone from Sept. 5-8. It has a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or minus 3.6 per­cent­age points.

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