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Americans Evenly Divided on Russia's Plan for Syria

Americans Evenly Divided on Russia's Plan for Syria

by Art Swift

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans are evenly split as to whether Russia's plan to control Syria's chemical weapons will succeed. Russian President Vladimir Putin's plan was met with at least some degree of optimism by 45% of Americans, yet 44% said they are pessimistic about the plan.

Americans' Views on Russia's Syrian Chemical Weapons Plan

These results come from a Sept. 11-12, 2013, poll conducted after U.S. President Barack Obama's Tuesday speech from the White House regarding Syria and after Putin's proposal on Monday. The plan, which would place Syria's stockpiles of chemical weapons under international supervision en route to being destroyed, emerged after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry commented that Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, could avoid U.S. airstrikes by agreeing to give up his chemical weapons.

Democrats are slightly more optimistic than pessimistic that Putin's proposal will succeed, while Republicans are slightly more pessimistic than optimistic. Independents mirror the national average, with 44% optimistic and 43% pessimistic about the Russian overture.

Syria has indicated it is willing to support the plan, with its U.N. ambassador announcing Thursday that it has formally asked to join the Chemical Weapons Convention, a treaty that bans chemical weapons development, production, stockpiling, and use. Assad said Thursday that Syria will submit data on its chemical weapons stockpile a month after signing the convention.

American Opposition to Military Strike Rises

Americans' opposition to a military strike against Syria has risen quickly. Sixty-two percent of Americans oppose the U.S. taking military action against Syria in order to reduce Syria's ability to use chemical weapons, up from 51% last week. Support for military action has fallen from 36% to 28% in the past week.

It is not clear if the decline in support is due to increased opposition, even after President Obama's speech, or if it reflects the perception that diplomatic action may be able to resolve the dispute and avert the need for a military strike.

Americans' Views on Military Intervention in Syria


Attention Remains High, but Unchanged, After President's Speech

Despite President Obama's prime-time television address Tuesday to explain his position on Syria, Americans are not paying more attention to the Syrian situation this week than they were last week. When asked how closely they are following the news about the Syrian civil war, 31% say very closely, unchanged from last week. Thirty-nine percent of Americans are following the situation somewhat closely, down one percentage point from the Sept. 3-4 poll, and 30% are following the civil war "not too closely" or "not at all," up one point.

Bottom Line

Current U.S. public opinion about Syria is complicated. While Americans convincingly do not want the United States to intervene militarily, they are divided as to whether the Russian plan to control Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons will succeed. It is noteworthy, though, that Americans' optimism about the success of the Russian plan is significantly higher than their support for U.S. military intervention in Syria.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 11-12, 2013, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,038 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline and cell telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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