White House

Poll: 4 Out of 5 Americans Say Obama Needs Congressional Greenlight for Syria Strike

But Americans remain at odds with each other — and often themselves — on the virtue of an attack.

A Standard Missile (SM-3) is launched from the Aegis combat system equipped Arleigh Burke class destroyer USS Decatur during a Missile Defense Agency ballistic missile flight test from the Pacific Ocean on June 22, 2007. The Navy, using this missile technology, will shoot down a malfunctioning U.S. spy satellite sometime after February 20, 2008. When the satellite enters the Earth's atmosphere, it could release hydrazine, a toxic chemical, and if exposed in a populated area could cause mass injuries. (UPI Photo/U.S. Navy)
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Patrick Reis
Aug. 30, 2013, 10:47 a.m.

Half of all Amer­ic­ans want Pres­id­ent Obama to launch a mis­sile strike on Syr­ia, but nearly 80 per­cent want him to get con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al first, ac­cord­ing to an NBC News poll.

The poll, con­duc­ted Wed­nes­day and Thursday, re­veals a nu­anced, or per­haps con­tra­dict­ory, at­ti­tude about the use of force. Only 42 per­cent of poll re­spond­ents said they sup­por­ted “mil­it­ary ac­tion” against Syr­ia, while 50 per­cent were op­posed. But sup­port for ac­tion jumped to 50 per­cent — and op­pos­i­tion dropped to 44 — when re­spond­ents were asked spe­cific­ally about “mil­it­ary ac­tion “¦ lim­ited to air strikes us­ing cruise mis­siles launched from U.S. nav­al ships.”

Fi­nally, 58 per­cent of re­spond­ents agreed that the use of chem­ic­al weapons by any coun­try is a “red line” that re­quires “a sig­ni­fic­ant U.S. re­sponse, in­clud­ing the pos­sib­il­ity of mil­it­ary ac­tion,” while only 35 per­cent dis­agreed.

Re­spond­ents were much more uni­fied when asked about wheth­er Obama should re­quire con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al be­fore get­ting the mil­it­ary in­volved in Syr­ia, with 79 per­cent agree­ing and only 16 per­cent op­posed.

The poll’s au­thors put its mar­gin of er­ror at 3.7 per­cent­age points.

Schol­ars sup­port a broad range of po­s­i­tions on how much au­thor­ity the pres­id­ent has to at­tack an­oth­er coun­try without le­gis­lat­ive ap­prov­al. But re­gard­less of the leg­al text, the on-the-ground real­ity is that Con­gress has been largely un­suc­cess­ful in stop­ping pres­id­ents from launch­ing strikes without ap­prov­al, said James Lind­sey, dir­ect­or of stud­ies at the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions.

Obama did not se­cure con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al for the coun­try’s most re­cent mil­it­ary in­ter­ven­tion in the Ar­ab world, a series of strikes in Libya aimed at top­pling the re­gime of Muam­mar el-Qad­dafi.

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