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
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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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