Few Back US Military Role in Syria, But Support Jumps in Specific Cases

JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- While Americans broadly prefer to stay out of direct involvement in the conflict in Syria, support for U.S. military action soars in the event of a loss of control of its chemical weapons, the use of such weapons on the Syrian people or an attack on neighboring U.S. allies.

Most in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll also say they’d support the imposition of a no-fly zone over Syria, provided U.S. ground forces are not involved.

See a PDF with full results, charts and tables here.

In general, 73 percent say the U.S. military should not get involved in the conflict.  But almost exactly as many say they’d support U.S. military involvement if Syria were to lose control of its chemical weapons, as do 63 percent if the Assad regime used these banned weapons against its own people -- an action that President Obama has warned would “cross a red line.”

Similarly, if Syrian forces were to attack nearby U.S. allies, 69 percent say they’d support U.S. military involvement.  And regardless of any such specific provocation, 62 percent say they’d favor the creation of a no-fly zone, provided no ground troops were used.  (That may reflect the success of the no-fly zone over Libya, general preference for air vs. ground combat, or some combination of both.)

Even among those who initially oppose U.S. military intervention, more than half change their position given the specific circumstances proposed, including 69 percent who, despite initial hesitancy, support U.S. involvement if Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile became insecure.

More generally, this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, finds the American public wary of the unrest in Syria and the course of the Arab Spring more broadly.  Majorities think these events will harm, not help, U.S. political and economic interests in the region, and more think they’ll harm rather than help U.S. efforts to fight terrorist groups.

Fewer than a quarter think the outcome of the Syrian and broader Middle East/North Africa unrest will ultimately help U.S. political and economic interests.  And Americans by 44-26 percent think the events in Syria will harm the United States’ ability to fight terrorist groups in the region.  The public by 52-28 percent says the same about the Arab Spring more generally.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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