While polls show that barely half of the American people support the Syria missile strikes ordered by Donald Trump last week, allowing the administration to claim “majority support” for the attack on a Syrian airbase, a new study by the Gallup polling organization has found that compared to the 10 other major United States military actions since 1983, the Syria strike is remarkably unpopular.
According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released on Monday, a narrow majority of just 51 percent of Americans said that they supported the strikes, with 40 percent saying they opposed the military action.
A Huffington Post/YouGov survey also found an identical level of support, 51 percent, but a much higher level of uncertainty about the Syria strikes, with only 32 percent saying they opposed the Trump order and 17 percent — almost one in five — saying they were not sure.
In fact, according to the Huffington Post/YouGov poll released on Sunday, 19 percent — again, almost one in five — said they were not aware that the U.S. had conducted airstrikes against Syria anytime in the past six months, and 24 percent, or about one out of every four Americans, said they were “not sure” if the U.S. has conducted any Syria strikes at all.
A Gallup poll also released on Sunday found slightly less support for the Syria strikes — an even 50 percent, with 41 percent saying they disapproved of the military action.
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But Gallup also compared support for the Syria strikes with past major military actions — of which there have now been a total of 11 since 1983, when then-President Ronald Reagan ordered U.S. Marines to invade the tiny, Caribbean island of Grenada. The stated purpose of the invasion was to rescue U.S. citizens in the small country, which had a strongly left-wing government. But the invasion resulted in the overthrow of that government.
Reagan’s Grenada invasion, in which 20 U.S. troops were killed and more than 100 wounded, polled at 53 percent support, according to Gallup, making it only slightly more popular than Trump’s Syria strike would be, almost 34 years later.
The NATO bombing of Kosovo, in the spring of 1999, also received roughly the same level of support at the Syria strikes, polling at 51 percent. Bill Clinton was president at that time and gave the order for U.S. participation in the bombing campaign. But with no American troops on the ground, none lost their lives in the action, which had the goal of stopping a brutal “ethnic cleansing” program carried out by Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic.
The most popular U.S. military action of the past 34 years according to Gallup poll data, was the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, in the immediate aftermath go the 9/11 terrorist attacks, with a towering 90 percent of Americans giving the Afghanistan invasion a thumbs up at the time.
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The U.S. invasion of Iraq two years later would also garner high approval, with 76 percent support in the Gallup poll.
However, only one U.S. military action since 1983 has proven less popular than the Trump-ordered Syria strikes, at least in initial Gallup polling. The U.S. bombing of Libya in 2011, in support of a popular uprising against the country’s long-standing dictator Muammar Gaddafi, proved to be widely unpopular among the American public — becoming the only one of the 11 major military actions since 1983 failing to win at least 50 percent popular support.
The Libya bombing, carried out under President Barack Obama, polled at just 47 percent approval, making it the only U.S. attack on a foreign country in then last 34 years less popular than the Syria strikes.
However, the 37 percent who said that they disapproved of the Libya bombing campaign was actually three percentage points lower than the 40 percent who say they disapprove of the Syria strikes ordered by Trump.
[Featured Image by U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/AP Images]