This morning there was a new YouGov/Times poll asking about whether Britain should take part in military intervention in Syria.

A solid majority of the public believe that there probably was a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government or their allies – 61% agree, compared to 5% who believe that the attack was a fabrication, and 5% who believe neither claim. 29% do not know.

This does not, however, translate into support for military action. By 51% to 17% people oppose sending Britain and allied troops into Syria to remove Assad. The more likely option of a cruise missile attack on Syrian military targets also faces fairly solid opposition – just 22% would support it, 43% are opposed.

60% of people say they would support enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria, though given the opposition to other military options one suspects this could be because a “no fly zone” is a rather peaceful sounding euphemism for something that would in practice also involve attacking anti-air defences or the Syrian air force. The full tabs for the polling are here.

While the YouGov figures suggest that there is little public support for Britain getting involved in military action against Syria, there was also some Sky Data polling yesterday which was less clear. Asked if people would support or oppose “UK military action in response to the alleged chemical attack in Syria” 36% said support, 37% said oppose. However, asked about UK military action that might result in conflict with Russia, only 28% said they would support, 48% said they were opposed. Tabs are here.

The reason for that higher level support in that first Sky Data poll is unclear. It could be because the chemical attack was mentioned in the question, or perhaps because it asked about a vague “miliary action” rather than the more specific actions in the YouGov questions. Either way, it is clear that the public are, at best, ambivalent towards military action in Syria, with opposition to most specific proposals and to intervention that risks conflict with Russia.


305 Responses to “YouGov/Times poll on military intervention in Syria”

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  1. The Other Howard: One of the factors neither of us has mentioned before, is that the British do not have a favourable view of the EU certainly those over 50.

    I am over 50 and I have a favourable view of the EU. And I know how old I am.

    I think part of the problem is those who don’t know how old they are.

  2. @polltroll

    “I still think we can’t idly stand by, or be taken in by the wishful thinking that a diplomatic resolution is just around the corner.”

    So are you suggesting that the UK should intervene to end the Syrian civil war? It has an exceptionally unsuccessful record of interventionism in the region from the early twentieth century onwards.

  3. @to

    Me too!

  4. Colin

    Technically, Gazprom isn’t “state-owned”, but a private company, which the state effectively controls! (so not much difference).

    We agree that its price-gouging activities go back some years – to Yeltsin’s time I understand, though the CEE states may not have been EU members, when the original contracts were signed.

    Interestingly, I happened across other Statements of Objections issued to Western gas distribution systems which had systems designed to impede competition in their energy markets. For example, Belgium –

    http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-07-1487_en.htm?locale=en

    “Given the very strong market position of Distrigas on the relevant market, the Commission was concerned that other suppliers find it difficult to do business with Belgian customers, due to the combination of two factors: the duration of the contracts and the volumes of gas tied to Distrigas.”

    Now I am not suggesting that Belgium was allowing such practices as part of a geo-political strategy (as Russia undoubtedly does), but would you have said that such a situation “confirms what we know about Verhofstadt’s Belgium”? [1]

    The USA uses its companies to exert geo-political influence too. It’s not surprising that the EU has invoked 3 anti-trust actions against Google, for example.

    The UK idea of “Imperial Preference” was also a government project with a geo-political purpose, using private companies to exploit the resources of the Empire.

    It may have been unintentional on your part, but the implication of the DT article and your own use of “Putin’s Russia” is that only Putin uses these selfish tactics, when in fact major powers, have always (and still do) tried to employ such methods.

    The CEE governments may have wanted extensive fines on Gazprom to get some of the money that their citizens had paid for gas (though I doubt that the citizens would have seen a cent of it!) but Laszlo will know better than me.

    In terms of limiting Gazprom’s activities, I suspect that the EU is much more effective than the individual government’s of the CEE states would be (or were), on their own.

    [1] Actually, it does and also about the other 9 member states the EU investigated, though the then current political leader is a total irrelevance.

  5. TCO

    Talking of age, your “jokes” about Howard’s age are becoming increasingly childish.

  6. Here is an article from The Times, sadly behind a paywall, documenting the Turkish armed forces use of chemical weapons in Afrin, the Kurdish enclave of Northern Syria.

    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/turkey-used-chemical-weapons-in-north-syria-70h6f9rzk

    Would any of the people here saying we have to do something about the use of chemical weapons in Syria also feel the same way when British allies like Turkey use them. Is anyone advocating war with Turkey?

  7. @TOH – “I think that is a rather silly question phrased the way you put it. What I meant is quite clear, full control of our own law making, so that parliament and the UK Supreme Court are the arbiters.”

    It’s not a silly question at all. Does the Supreme Court oversee cases brought before the WTO, for example? If not, I would have to assume you want us to leave that as well?

  8. AL

    Hang on one country at a time after all the military are probably planning an attack on the U.K. police after they gassed you.

  9. Turk

    “one country at a time”

    If you are suggesting that the UN should authorise taking out Turkey’s military assets first, before moving on to other aggressive states, I wouldn’t demur from that.

  10. Turk

    Yeah I find the use of chemical weapons abhorrent, not something to crack jokes about. I’m not rising to the bait.

    Why don’t you answer the question? If you support war on Syria because do you not feel the same way about Turkey?

    Is the use of chemical weapons something you are against in general, or does it depend on which countries use the chemical weapons.

  11. There is a certain irony in R4 preparing to broadcast Enoch Powell’s 1968 speech, while the British Transport Police are investigating this assault on a London train.

    We’re appealing for information after a vicious and racially-motivated assault on the Central Line.
    At around 3.45am on Saturday (7 April), the victim – a 24-year-old woman – was talking to some friends in Spanish.
    Two nearby women heard her and started shouting at her, saying she should be talking English when in England.
    They then grabbed her hair and pulled her around by her hair. This resulted in injuries to her scalp and cuts to her face.
    The women were both black and had braided hair. They were believed to be in their late twenties and one was wearing a brown jacket, while the other was wearing a black jacket.
    The train was travelling from Liverpool Street to Stratford.

    http://media.btp.police.uk/r/15373/racially_aggravated_assault_on_central_line_-_lon

  12. From the guff you read on certain political forums and in some papers, you could be fooled into thinking that bombing Syria was more popular than 22% support. Some of the other questions make useful control questions to get an idea of the uninformed (60-22% of respondents do not understand what a no-fly zone is). 28% of the public do not understand MAD, or are thick or are nuts.

    As far as incentives are concerned, the last Baathist to use chemical weapons before giving them up ended up swinging from a rope. A clear message was sent then.

  13. 60-22% being 60 (yes to no fly zone) minus 22 (yes to missile strikes) equalling 38% to clarify.

  14. Colin

    As an aside to our discussion about Gazprom, I have family in Maryland and was sent this link about a Federal court forcing them to pay more for some generic drugs.

    Not quite Gazprom, but maybe US system more under the control of the price gougers than in the EU!

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-drugs-pricing-maryland/u-s-appeals-court-strikes-down-maryland-drug-price-gouging-law-idUSKBN1HK2FS?utm_campaign=trueAnthem:+Trending+Content&utm_content=5ad1368c04d301579b7c4410&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=twitter

  15. @ToH

    “There we disagree significantly (apart from your reference to Brussels), I think it was mainly about sovereignty. If you look at YouGov polling in April and May 2016 people were pessimistic about the economic effects but still voted to leave in June. If you look at May 23/24th and the question do you think Britain would be better or worse off the figures are :
    Better off 23%
    Worse off 34%
    No Diff 25%
    D. Know 18%”

    ——–

    Just because people may have not voted leave for economic reasons, doesn’t mean you can then say it must therefore have been for Sovereignty. Look at the polling on immigration and how it became the number one concern.

  16. I don’t think most people have a clue what is meant by “sovereignty”.

    Don’t really think I do myself.

    Anyway, whatever it is, we obviously had enough of it in the first place to decide to have a referendum and end up where we are – so it’s hard to see where the problem was.

    It is almost certainly not the reason people voted and – if polling is to be believed – a large percentage of the leave vote was based on dissatisfaction with the UK government, not the EU.

  17. The biggest factor at the time of the EU ref was, as I said, immigration, which came from nowhere to become the number one issue in polling.

    Sovereignty, or anything like it, didn’t even figure in the top ten.

  18. Looks like the bombing campaign has begun.

  19. ““Insulting the president of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible,” he added.”

    Odd response from Russian ambassador to the US. Obviously a lot of “pride” at stake.

  20. Talk is cheap Crofty, the Russian had threatened to shoot down US missiles and return fire, but come the moment of truth they did nothing. Putin and Russia look like paper tigers tonight, one of their key allies has been pummeled, and their bluff has been called. They had to stand by helpless while the bombs dropped.

    This was a political masterstroke from Trump. Not only does he get to look tough on the world stage, he makes the democrats look stupid for accusing him of being Putin’s puppet. He’s distracted huge amounts of attention away from his domestic issues and made Obama look prevaricating and weak.

    There’s nothing Russia can do. If it were serious they would have fired on the US ships that are in the area. But they didn’t. This makes Putin look at a fool and will weaken his domestic popularity, threatening his position.

    Of course the Russians might attempt some kind of face saving exercise still, but 2 years of patient work in helping Assad defeat the various jihadist groups and reassert control over the country has been left in ruins. There are already reports of ISIS taking advantage of the situation by launching new offensives to recover lost territory in yarmouk and deir azzour and jaish al-islam is regrouping and attacking in eastern Damascus. More rebel advances are likely and whilst it’s not likely that they can win the war, they may be able to retake territory and extend the war further.

  21. The Russian bravado of the past few days now looks ridiculous. All mouth and no trousers. Their bluff was well and truly called today.

    I suspect the Syrian Shia vs Sunni Civil War will drag on for years more and that will suit the West in strategical terms.

    This situation reminds me of a pithy quote from Kissinger on the Iran-Iraq War, “It’s a pity they both can’t lose.”

  22. So in the face of public opinion and having failed to recall Parliament the Cabinet decided to bomb another country.

    Corbyn’s jibe about waiting for what the US decided to do looks pretty spot on. At least Macron looked decisive, if a typical neo-thingy blood thirster. The UK Government just looks like they dodged a vote because they didn’t know what they would be told to do.

  23. It looks like Russia’s S-400 system wasn’t even used. That does surprise me as I would have expected a token shoot-down.

    Looking at Tass this morning all the mild sabre-rattling has gone, replaced with narrative seemingly at pains to point out that the missiles didn’t come anywhere near (250km or so) the S-400 protected area, which doesn’t quite square with the stated range of the system (400km).

    As others have pointed out, Putin had the chance to retaliate and didn’t. I am expecting more hybrid-style tomfoolery from him but for now it looks like a wider conflict hasn’t materialised.

    I am still with Corbyn on this one though!

  24. Personally, I think this plays solidly into Corbyn’s hands. Big, big mistake.

  25. It appears the strikes are rather tokenistic and of little practical value.

    When ‘something must be done’ and the reality of acting is complex, tokenism often is the result.

    Given the advanced notice of likely attack, I’m sure all important military equipment had been moved for day ago., and things will carry on just as it did before.

    Oh the merry dance…

  26. Correction

    It appears the strikes are rather tokenistic and of little practical value.

    When ‘something must be done’ and the reality of acting is complex, tokenism often is the result.

    Given the advanced notice of likely attack, I’m sure all important military equipment had been moved days ago., and things will carry on just as it did before.

    Oh the merry dance…

  27. tokenistic?

    Any “token” body count yet?

  28. Oh well, as long as we can make lots of money out of killing thousands of people who cares, eh?

    https://news.sky.com/story/britains-chemical-sales-to-syria-revealed-10440017

  29. Will be interesting to see if there are any effects on opinion polls. No real movement in the last 6 moths, will this finally move them one way or another. Personally I doubt it

  30. Tokenism which nevertheless has committed us to go along with whatever Trump and Macron decide to do next.

    It feels extremely strange to find myself on the side of public opinion.

    The only positive things which I can imagine coming out of this, give that i expect this to turn out very badly for May extremely quickly indeed, would be her final ignominious departure and the absolute certainty of Corbyn as pm when the next election finally comes, and also that this becomes the resource hungry disaster it will inevitably turn into so quickly that Brexit could be agreed to be put on hold until the glorious victory arrives, which will effectively kill it altogether.

  31. Alec
    “It’s not a silly question at all. Does the Supreme Court oversee cases brought before the WTO, for example? If not, I would have to assume you want us to leave that as well?”

    So, you think this sensible.

    “Would this include the freedom to break international laws (e.g. on nerve gas),”

    All I was pointing out to Charles was that I though his question silly worded as it was. I still do, I then answered it clearly, I thought it not like Charles as he normally posts entirely sensibly even if I disagree with much that he posts.

    As to WTO I not supporting us leaving that organisation, but I am supporting us leaving the EU. Spot the difference?

    Carfrew

    “Look at the polling on immigration and how it became the number one concern.”

    I was careful to say that immigration was a factor. I stick by my opinion but it is just my opinion. There are many reasons why 17.2 m people voted to leave, I’m just very happy they did so. I have my opinion, you have yours, Charles has his, others probably have other views as to what was the main factor or factors. The thing that matters most to me is that they did and we are leaving the EU.

  32. @POLLTROLL

    Which would you prefer 8 rounds of bombing to no effect or 8 rounds of peace talks.

    Indeed the 8 rounds of peace talks have brought more safety to people than any amount of bombing has been very clear. The same thing happened in Iraq where the biggest change was actually talking to the enemy rather than continuously hit your head against a brick wall. it is happening in Afghanistan where after the mess we created the locals are having to talk to each other to sort out their differences.

    We have just celebrated 20 years of peace in Northern Ireland. it is interesting that we used to pertain to the view that SF were a terrorist organisation that had to be defeated. nelson mandela was the Tories bogeyman for years. In the end we do not have the tools to impose peace we have created a situation whereby the mess was partly our own creation we have made ourselves less safe as a consequence and we have help create a hell hole on earth. As I said I am not against intervention I pointed out Sierra Leone which I have personal experience of having gunfights down the street and RPG firing off and destroying a house next to my grandmothers and as sh1tty as that was for me I can not even imagine the daily lives of Syrians today since in comparison I would have thought that would have been a good day.

    My view is the intervention as per all our interventions in the middle east these days are tokenistic and have no real difference in the day to day lives of the Syrians. The people dieing will continue we will have satiated out nihilistic itch and life for us will go on and we’ll be arguing about the next poll that comes out.

    After the bombing is done what happens? Thing will continue it would have had no effect and no change in the situation would have come from it.

  33. @ALIENATED LABOUR

    There will be a bombing campaign it will be limited in scope and will avoid the Russians. it is clear that Turkey Russia and Iran have a set of common objectives and the idea that the campaign is but an irritant to the situation is to my mind part of the problem. In the end all side have guns and unless one side get the upper hand decisively talking is the only thing that will stop people dieing. if the aim of the bombing is to stop people dieing then it will fail. if bombing s to show who has big balls then again it shows how poor our politicians are and to my mind how poor the electorate that puts them in power.

  34. AL

    A sensible analysis at 5-32.

    I was thinking the same about Trump.

  35. I’m agnostic about the advisability of these air strikes but I would prefer it if, in condemning them, Mr Corbyn were to say something along the lines that “airtstikes are counterproductive, unfortunately there’s not actually much we can do BUT, Assad is GUILTY and Russia is CULPABLE here. Instead, in his recent statement he proposes that the U.K. should “try to get Russia AND the U.S. to ask the UN to investigate”. That was precisely what the U.S. has proposed only to be vetoed (for the 12th time) by Russia. Why can’t he bring himself to criticize Russia?

  36. DC

    Like you I am agnostic also, but the repeated mantras of “talk” or the UN actually sorting things out when neither actually have any effect is just silly.

    We are better with the UN than without it but the veto system, which means that major countries, most often those at the epicentre of world problems, often makes agreement impossible.

  37. CROFTY
    I agree. Ironically the UN veto’s were designed to consolidate power but have ultimately stymied the whole thing.

  38. The only question that should be addressed now, looking forward rather than back, is whether this action will achieve its desired effect. That effect, as it has been portrayed by Britain is to prevent use of Chemical weapons by the Assad regime and to deter others from using them by means of a limited attack which does not provoke greater conflict. I imagine that, in polling terms it is that proposition which will be tested by the facts on the ground. Depending on the outcomes it appears to me that if there is no greater conflict then the action will have limited impact on polling, however if there are more negative outcomes then given the recent poll on attitudes towards such action I would expect it to become damaging to the Government.

  39. @TOH – “As to WTO I not supporting us leaving that organisation, but I am supporting us leaving the EU. Spot the difference?”

    No – not in the context of @Charles point. You’ll have to explain.

    To help you, the context is as follows; you wish to leave the EU in order to restore the complete supremacy of UK law via the Supreme Court. You don’t support leaving the WTO however, even though this violates your own principle of the supremacy of the Supreme Court.

    It may be that you feel the level and extent of the subjugation of UK law under the EU treaties is not a price worth paying, whereas its subjugation by our treaty arrangement with the WTO is less invasive and worth the benefits. This would be a perfectly logical case to argue, and one that I could sympathize with.

    However, if this is your rationale, it does mean that you can no longer argue that there is a principle of sovereignty at stake here, as you would be accepting that it isn’t a matter of principle, only of extent and scale.

    This, I believe, is what @Charles was asking you, and why you were wrong to dismiss the question as silly.

  40. I think the bombing had to be done.

  41. On Syria:

    Hurrah! Something has been done!

    Let’s hope everybody is happy now. Initial reactions suggest that this has laid a mild marker against Putin’s rhetoric and Assad’s butchery, and while it will probably have zero practical impact on Syrian capabilities, the west has faced down Russia without leading to an immediate military escalation. There will be a hybrid warfare response at some stage I suspect, but then the Russians are already doing that all the time anyway.

    Both sides will spin this to their contentment, but it may well represent something of an uncertainty in the mind of Putin. Just how far can he push things without provoking a response?

    In that sense, it’s probably mission accomplished, especially if there were no casualties, and as the Russians are claiming no casualties, that suggests we can belief that particular bit of information.

  42. As the number one condition of the peace talks was that Assad must step down, there was no chance (whether he should or shouldn’t).

    The other condition (from the other side) was the disarmament of the opposition. That wouldn’t have a chance either (whether it should be done or not.)

    Resurrecting demand for agricultural goods in North Africa and the Middle East and availability of water for irrigation would provide more chance to peace.

  43. Alec
    Oh dear, you want to have an argument about what I said about, what I though of what Charles posted. Well sorry, I am not going to play childish games with you. I was talking the context of us leaving the EU. I am sure Charles understands that I want our law making as free as possible form the influence of the Eu. I leave to Charles to think about what I thought of as the rather inflammatory way he phrased his question, but it’s no big deal to me.

    On your later post

    “In that sense, it’s probably mission accomplished, especially if there were no casualties, and as the Russians are claiming no casualties, that suggests we can belief that particular bit of information.”

    Happy we can agree on something.

  44. @TOH – “Oh dear, you want to have an argument about what I said about, what I though of what Charles posted. Well sorry, I am not going to play childish games with you.”

    Fine, but can you explain the difference in your mind between the subjugation of UK law under the EU and WTO treaties.

    That’s really all we’re interested in. If not, we’ll assume you’re a bit stuck on the issue.

  45. david colby

    You are “agnostic” about bombing people, but you don’t mind finding a way to blame Corbyn for it anyway.

    Ha ha ha

  46. Some interesting observations on Trump and Syria in the FT (sorry but the copy and paste puts a lot of codes in the copied text, and on this device typing something long reduces life expectancy).

    https://www.ft.com/content/252ce5e2-3f30-11e8-b7e0-52972418fec4?utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook#link_time=1523647812

  47. Alec

    “That’s really all we’re interested in. If not, we’ll assume you’re a bit stuck on the issue.”

    As I said I’m not going to play games, I’m totally relaxed about what I have said which I am sure Charles will be quite clear about, as I’m sure you are really. So, I have been clear where I stand on the issue, if you don’t know by now as you claim, then “tough” as they say.

    My wife and I are just back from a lovely five-mile walk, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers singing, sun shining. I recommend you do the same, might make you feel a little less combative.

  48. NICK P

    “ha ha ha”

    Eh??? I don’t see how you read DC’s post as “blaming” anybody. It just contained a gently worded suggestion as to what Corbyn’s response could have been rather than the one he made.

    The reality, and it is a sad one, is that the UN is completely hamstrung by vetoes and talks have gone on for ages. So saying that that is what “should” be done is rather beside the point, although of course it is very easy and sounds good.

    I have no idea whether the bombing raids achieved anything or not but I suppose it is just possible that facing down Putin’s implicit threats of retaliation will be seen to have made some sort of sense.

    Largely I am all in favour of Labour party policy [although not sure about foreign affairs and unclear about the EU approach also] but that doesn’t mean I have to suspend my critical faculties or feel that other people who think differently to me must, automatically be in the wrong every time.

    Which seems to be your approach.

    I look forward to your terse insult by way of a reply….

  49. @ALEC
    @THE OTHER HOWARD

    I think the point I have always made is the very one that CHARLES raised and indeed others have raised about sovereignty. I think the issue about sovereignty is often categorised as that which we feel in control of rather than actually in control of. it is not a situation based in fact which is why I believe that people will talk past each other. I raised the issue of subsidiarity several times in any debate I have used issues form Lancashire county council refusing to give a fracking licence to a company only to be overruled by central government and a minister whose constituency is in Worcestershire making that decision. it is clear that there are limits to sovereignty both in a practical sense and in a political sense. Sovereignty will always be a complex issue and one given our colonial past has deep connotations. It is interesting that those that gave up empire seem to understand shared sovereignty much better than those that it was rather rested from them and it is why I think the view of sovereignty is actually an ageist sort of thing. whereby the older you are the more you associate sharing sovereignty with being subjugated. After all during empire we were not subjugating countries we were helping them were we not.

    COLIN described himself in one post as a person completely different to that of someone like myself, he had never worked abroad described himself almost a quinesnetially british and wiith a focus that would be different to myself which has worked across the globe and work in an environment whereby most of the people I meet are not British. I often see the situation not unlike that of when I talk to my mother. She cannot understand why now nurses are on fixed term contracts of 2 year in the hospital she used to work. She worked in the NHS for 40 years uninterrupted no issue and most jobs were not of that ilk. Now of her nephew and nieces she said that all of them were on fix term contract have had to work abroad have had periods of no work and whilst being highly qualified. I suggest that THE OTHER HOWARD view of sovereignty is essentially outdated and the issue in the Uk is actually that of lack of the subsidiarity that people enjoy in the rest of the EU. it is funny but people forget that the Woolons were able to stop beligum adopting a treating requiring intense negotiation to get them to change their minds. if Lancaster county council can’t decide that Fracking would be bad for their county then the issue of sovereignty is often misplaced.

    The one thing THE OTHER HOWARD does have correct is that whilst he does not care why people voted to leave and he is happy with the decision I believe that a number of people I met on the doorstep confused control of local affairs with sovereignty and indeed the confusion is because we are the most centralised country in the EU and appear to have very little control of local affairs.

  50. Are people really surprised that Russian did nothing.

    There are tacit agreements being made her. Neither side is saying it openly but they have signalled intent.

    Russia made it clear that it would retaliate if it’s forces were attacked or threatened. The West chose targets where the Russians weren’t deployed, so there was no need for a Russian response.

    In Korea the US was involved in an air war with China, both sides shot down each other’s planes and attacked Korean Airfields…but no US aircraft ever attacked an airfield in China even though China was using them to launch attacks.

    Equally even though US Navy Aircraft were in combat the Chinese never tried to attack an American Aircraft Carrier.

    Russia will support Assad but it won’t go to war for him.

    It’s a bit like the old Joke about the American raising money to support Israel.

    A guy asks him; “Why are you doing this?”
    His reply; “They need to defend themselves and I am Jewish!”
    The guy then asks; “Well why don’t you go there and join the army?”
    Reply; ” I am not that Jewish!!!”

    Peter.

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