SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5/AP) — President Barack Obama wasn’t just seeking Americans’ support for military action in Syria. He also was seeking their trust.
Whether he earned it will not only color his response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war but also his legacy as a world leader and the success of his broader second-term priorities.
With the majority of Americans – and many in the Bay Area – against the use of force in Syria, Obama asked them Tuesday evening to have confidence in his judgment as commander in chief if he launches a strike despite their opposition. And he asked them to have faith that a president elected to end wars was still trying to find another way out, perhaps a diplomatic deal at the United Nations to secure Syria’s chemical weapons.
“I know that after the terrible toll of Iraq and Afghanistan, the idea of any military action, no matter how limited, is not going to be popular,” Obama said in a prime-time address from the White House, adding that he has a “deeply held preference for peaceful solutions.”
Point by point, Obama tried to address the public’s concerns during his 15-minute address. To those who question whether it’s worth taking limited action, he argued that a targeted U.S. strike “will send a message to (Syrian President Bashar) Assad that no other nation can deliver.” To those who fear Assad will retaliate, he downplayed the Syrian regime’s ability to threaten U.S. interests. And to those who fear a limited strike in Syria will ultimately pull the U.S. into a lengthy conflict, he said he had no interest in starting another war.
“I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria,” he said. “I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan.”
Again and again, Obama’s message was clear: Trust me.
According to a KPIX 5 poll conducted immediately after his speech, 44 percent of Bay Area adults said they agreed with almost all of what Obama had to say and an additional 37 percent said they agreed with some of what he said. Only 18 percent indicated they agreed with almost none of the present’s points on Syria.
But despite those numbers, significant opposition to military action remained. The poll found 49 percent of Bay Area adults still oppose any military strike against Syria. Only 22 percent supported bombing the rogue nation, while 9 percent said they would support both bombing and the use of ground troops; 20 percent were unsure.
The KPIX 5 poll of 357 Bay Area adults who watched the speech was conducted by the research firm SurveyUSA and has a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points.
- Download The Complete KPIX 5 Poll Results (.pdf)
- Obama Delays Syria Vote; Bay Area Lawmakers Hope Diplomacy Works
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