As President Obama prepares to make his case for a possible military strike against Syria's government, he faces a formidable obstacle — the public.
A new IBD/TIPP Poll of 904 adults, conducted Aug. 24-28, shows Americans have misgivings about military action vs. Bashar Assad's regime.
Just 13% of those surveyed said they would "strongly" support U.S. military action in Syria. Another 25% said they would "somewhat" support it, for total support of nearly 39%.
In contrast, 52% said they opposed such a move either somewhat or strongly.
Democrats were strongest in their support, but just barely.
Among Democrats, 45% back taking action vs. 43% of Republicans. But Democrats were far more likely to say they support a Syria attack "strongly" (22%) than were Republicans (12%).
Independents were strongest in their opposition to an attack: 64% opposed military action, while just 28% supported it. Just 6% of war-weary swing voters strongly back action.
Those findings, however, don't mean that Americans want the administration to do nothing.
People were also asked if they would back using "air power to enforce a no-fly zone" over Syria.
That question won overwhelming support: 60% said yes, just 31% said no, with little difference among the various political affiliations.
Americans seem wary of taking further steps to aid the rebels, however bad Assad might be.
Asked if they would support training and aiding rebel forces in safe areas, IBD/TIPP respondents rejected the idea, 52% to 41%. Once again, all three major political affiliations showed broad agreement.
The poll also asked the public if they'd support or oppose "covert" removal of Syrian strongman Assad. By 47%-42%, Americans said yes, with Republicans strongest in their support at 56%-31%. But independents again opposed the idea 37%-55%.
Obama's problems don't end with the public, however.
There's a growing bipartisan movement within Congress and among our likely allies overseas, including Britain and France, to slow down and reconsider before taking what Obama has called a "shot across the bow" of Syria's rogue regime.
Obama said Wednesday in an interview with "PBS NewsHour" that a "limited, tailored" approach, avoiding a long Iraq-style conflict, could "have a positive impact on our national security over the long term."
And he was unequivocal in stating that the Assad regime, not the Islamist rebels, was behind the chemical weapons attacks. "We have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these out," Obama said. "And if that's so, then there needs to be international consequences."
However, U.S. intelligence officials aren't as certain as Obama and see no "smoking gun" linking Assad to the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attacks, according to reports Thursday by the New York Times and Associated Press. The chemical attacks killed an estimated 1,000 people, including women and children.
A group of 116 members of Congress signed a letter to Obama this week demanding congressional approval for any strike vs. Syria.
Britain's Parliament voted 285-273 against military action against Syria. Prime Minister David Cameron said it was clear lawmakers were opposed and "I will act accordingly."
Obama briefed Congress Thursday on Syria, and presumably made his case for acting now rather than later.
Even if he succeeds in convincing Congress, the IBD/TIPP Poll suggests he has a big hill to climb in getting past public opinion