Poll: Most Americans Don’t Want U.S. Troops in Syria

Survey finds majority of respondents approve of strike, don't want expanded ground presence

Although 57 percent of Americans applauded President Donald Trump’s Syrian airstrikes last week, only one in five favor an increased U.S. troop presence in Syria, according to the results of a CBS News poll released Monday.

Trump won praise from hawks on both sides of the political aisle when he ordered the airstrike Thursday evening in Syria, in retaliation for last week’s chemical attack, which killed over 80 of the country’s civilians — including children. Although a majority of the poll’s respondents approved of Trump’s decisive action, only 18 percent wish to see an increased U.S. military presence.

Although a majority of the poll’s respondents approved of Trump’s decisive action, only 18 percent wish to see an increased U.S. military presence.

The majority’s mood veers sharply from the views espoused by some of the nation’s most extreme hawks like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). The South Carolina senator is calling for massive increases in ground troops to aid rebels in bringing down Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

“I want more American troops, five or six thousand, like we have in Iraq, to help destroy ISIL. That means that we’ll accelerate the demise of ISIL,” Graham said Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” “I want to train opposition forces to take Assad down. He’s a threat to the United States because he’s a proxy of Iran. He used chemical weapons. He violated a treaty that he signed. I think it’s up to us to enforce that treaty.”

But most Americans do not share Graham’s views. The CBS poll found that half of Republican respondents want U.S. involvement limited to airstrikes and diplomatic efforts, whereas Democrats largely sided with diplomatic efforts as the most desirable option.

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In addition, roughly 7-in-10 Americans would prefer to see Trump seek congressional authorization for any further actions taken in Syria.

Trump’s nationwide approval rating received a boost following the airstrike. The CBS poll found that 43 percent now approve of Trump’s performance as president, up three points from the previous week. Eighty-three percent of Republicans, 11 percent of Democrats, and 42 percent of independents expressed their approval.

Approximately 41 percent of the poll’s respondents said they are “confident” in Trump’s capability to handle the Syrian situation, with 79 percent of Republicans, 11 percent of Democrats, and 39 percent of independents weighing in on the question. Fifty-percent total expressed their “uneasiness” with Trump’s ability to handle the conflict.

Trump must now navigate the complicated web of diplomatic relations with other countries invested in the outcome of the Syrian conflict. Both Russia and Iran responded to Trump’s airstrikes with hostilities. The countries released a joint statement Sunday indicating that they “will respond to any aggression.”

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“What America waged in an aggression on Syria is a crossing of red lines,” the statement read. “From now on we will respond with force to any aggressor or any breach of red lines from whoever it is and America knows our ability to respond well.”

When asked if they thought Trump is “too friendly” toward Russia, “too hostile” or whether “his approach is just about right,” only 35 percent of survey respondents said it was “too friendly.” Eight percent said it was “too hostile,” while a majority of 48 percent said it was “just about right.”

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