After President Trump abruptly changed his policy against intervention and fired 59 Tomahawk missiles (roughly $1 million each) at Syria, there was speculation that he was interested not so much in red lines that Assad may have crossed but more with lines his own waning popularity crossed. Many observers figured Donald was “wagging the dog” – distracting attention and changing the subject away from his intensely troubled first few weeks in office. Politico.com wondered, as many other publications did: It is hard to avoid wondering whether the purpose of the strikes was less to defend a red line that Trump had never supported than yet another effort by the president to distract the media’s attention and change the subject from his problems at home.
Diversion may or may not have been Trump’s motive but if it was, it seems to have failed in one regard. A new Gallup poll shows : US Support for Syria Strikes Rates Low in Historical Context – Americans’ opinion of U.S. missile strikes in Syria: 41% disapprove and 50% approve.
- Ten other military actions assessed since 1983 had majority support
- Only action with lower approval was Libya in 2011, at 47%
The GOP loved it though: 82% of Republicans approve, compared with 33% of Democrats. A divide such as this along partisan lines is new. Intervention by President Obama in Libya 2011 and Syria 2014 showed no such partisan divide at the time they were polled.
Gallup summarized the current finding:
Americans’ initial reaction to the missile airstrikes the U.S. launched against Syria last week is among the least positive of the 12 military actions Gallup has measured since 1983. Support does exceed opposition, which has been the case for each of the military actions tested, but the 50% approval is lower than all but one of the other interventions.
The strikes do not appear to have affected Americans’ views of Trump — at least in the short term. His job approval averaged 40% Tuesday through Thursday before the strikes, and has averaged 40% Friday through Sunday after the strikes.
If the Trump administration had hoped to change the subject and rally support, well Donald’s dog wouldn’t be wagged… this time.