08 June 2012

Survey shows lack of support for sending troops into Syria in Britain and United States

There is substantial public support in the United Kingdom and the United States for military action to secure a ‘no fly zone’ in Syria, but there is far less backing for using ground troops to tackle the situation according to a survey commissioned by academics at the University of Essex.

The study of attitudes of 2,337 Britons and 2,250 Americans was carried out in May and the beginning of June by YouGov and is part of a larger research project examining public attitudes towards foreign policy in different countries.

Initial analysis indicates a very low level of support for using ground troops to protect civilians or for providing direct military aid to the rebels.

The survey was prepared by Dr Thomas Scotto (pictured), from the University of Essex, and Dr Jason Reifler, from Georgia State University.

Dr Scotto said: “Events are moving quickly and new reports of atrocities may have an impact on public attitudes. People may be swayed by coverage showing women and children being killed.

“Nonetheless, our survey suggests that opposition to using military force on the ground will remain high in both Britain and America.”

Respondents in the United Kingdom and the United States were asked about whether or not they supported a range of military interventions in Syria. Possible measures included enforcement of a no-fly zone to prevent the Syrian air force from attacking rebels and civilians; arming the Syrian rebels; sending troops in to protect civilians; and using force to overthrow President Assad.

Dr Scotto said: “Analysis of the results so far indicates that opinions held by the public in Britain and America are very similar. Approximately 40 per cent of those surveyed in the US and UK favoured the enforcement of a no-fly zone, just over 20 per cent were opposed, while more than one quarter of respondents said they ‘neither supported nor opposed’ such an action. However, support drops considerably for more aggressive actions.

“Only 16 per cent of Americans and 12 per cent of Britons support providing arms to the Syrian rebels.

“Support for sending troops in to Syria is also very weak. Less than 20 per cent of Americans and Britons supported sending troops into the country to ‘protect civilians from attack’. Meanwhile, fewer than 10 per cent of survey respondents in both countries supported sending the military in to overthrow President Assad.”

Dr Scotto is principal investigator on the Economic and Social Research Council-funded project titled ‘The Structure, Causes, and Consequences of Foreign Policy Attitudes: A Cross-National Analysis of Representative Democracies’, and the YouGov survey was undertaken as part of this project.

Results from both the United States and the United Kingdom also suggest that public support does not increase if it appears more countries and allies will be involved in action against the Assad regime.


Notes to Editors

For more information please contact the University of Essex Communications Office on 01206 874377 or e-mail: comms@essex.ac.uk

Dr Thomas Scotto is working in the United States this week, but is regularly checking his e-mail and will respond via Skype or telephone as quickly as possible to media enquiries.

His e-mail address is: tscott@essex.ac.uk

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