Nearly eight out of every 10 Americans want President Obama to seek congressional approval before launching an attack on Syria, according to an NBC News survey released on Friday.
The survey paints a complex picture of the American electorate. While a majority would prefer to "provide only humanitarian assistance" in Syria and 50 percent say the U.S. should not take military action, survey respondents gave conflicting responses on other questions.
For example, when they were asked if U.S. military action were limited to air strikes — as the Obama administration has intimated repeatedly — 50 percent say they support a U.S. intervention.
Furthermore, 58 percent of respondents agreed with this statement: "The use of chemical weapons by any country is a 'red line,' that is an action that would require a significant U.S. response, including the possibility of military action."
Of course, it's complicated. Reuters reports on a similar poll conducted by the news agency and Ipsos that presents wholly different numbers on some questions:
"Some 53 percent of those surveyed this week said the United States should stay out of Syria's civil war, down from 60 percent last week. Just 20 percent said the United States should take action, but that was up from 9 percent last week.
"When asked whether the United States should intervene if Assad's government used chemical weapons on civilians, 29 percent of Americans said yes - up from 25 percent last week - while 44 percent opposed intervention even if chemicals have been used, down from 46 percent last week."
The Christian Science Monitor took a wider look at the polling, yesterday. The paper found that for months, now, numbers have described a war-weary American public opposed to a new intervention. This is due to in large part to the U.S. war in Iraq.
The paper adds:
"In any case, Pew pollster Andrew Kohut told Politico recently: 'Internationalism is at a low point and people are very wary of American involvement – particularly American military involvement – in that part of the world.'
"'We've had a rather consistent "let's not get involved" response to the crises in the Middle East more generally now for the past three or four years,' Mr. Kohut said. 'This part of the world has not proved to be a successful one from the point of view of the American public, so wanting to avoid further trouble is not unexpected.'"