One year later, Americans back military action in Syria

August 29, 2014, 3:43 PM GMT+0

Public opinion has transformed over the past year, with wide opposition to using military force against Syria changing into wide support for using force against ISIS militants in Syria

As the US continues with its recent campaign of air strikes against ISIS (also known as the Islamic State) in Iraq, the chances of American involvement in the conflict widening to include Syria are steadily increasing. President Obama has authorised the Air Force to begin intelligence flights over Syria to locate potential ISIS targets. ISIS has emerged as one of the main enemies of the Assad government in Syria. A year ago President Obama was considering launching air strikes against Assad himself, but this year finds himself considering an intervention that would help the Syrian government defeat the rebels.

The latest research from YouGov shows that attitudes towards the use of military force in Syria have changed significantly over the past year. In September 2013, when a deal to disarm Syria's chemical weapons was agreed, 62% of Americans opposed the use of military force while only 20% supported it. Today when asked whether they support the use of military force against ISIS militants in Syria, the situation is reversed. 63% of Americans now support the use of military force in Syria, compared to only 16% who oppose it.

Support for military action has increased significantly despite the fact that expectations of deeper US involvement remain the same. In research conducted at the beginning of September 2013 when the US was considering launching air strikes against Syria, 45% of Americans said that strikes would be the first step towards having US troops in Syria. 31% expected any potential campaign to be limited to air strikes. Today Americans still tend to expect any air strikes in Syria to lead to a US military presence, with 40% saying it would be a first step and 31% saying that action would be limited to air strikes.

Most Americans, regardless of political affiliation, support the use of military force against ISIS in Syria. Attitudes among Democrats and independents are identical, with 60% in favor and 17% against. Republicans are more likely to support intervention, with 76% backing any potential attack on ISIS in Syria.

Asked specifically about air strikes, such as the ones currently being conducted against ISIS insurgents in Iraq, support remains high. 60% of Americans support air strikes in Syria, while 64% support President Obama's decision to conduct air strikes in Iraq.

Full poll results for 2014 can be found here and from 2013 here and here.

Image: PA