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. Let’s actually quote some real life Corbyn:

    “Surely the United Nations exists for a purpose. If the security council was unable to come to an agreement this week, as it obviously wasn’t because the US and Russia couldn’t agree on anything, then surely the role of another country, us for example, is to be an honest broker and try and bring them together. This war cannot go on.”

    I blame Assad (and Putin).

  3. I blame Thatcher.

  4. Donald Trump just tweeted ‘mission accomplished’.
    Oh dear, you really couldn’t make it up.

  5. @TOH – “…. 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.”

    We’ll see what @Charles has to say on your non answer in due course, but no, you haven’t even started to address the issue, let alone be clear. This is almost certainly because you can’t, as you have painted yourself into an illogical corner if you maintain that only the UK Supreme Court should have the final say over UK law. As @PRTP has pointed out, she and others have repeatedly pointed out the inconsistencies in the idea of sovereignty as a principled red line, and by your support of WTO membership you simply confirmed that illogicality.

    I’m completely relaxed about this also, as I have always said that you don’t actually hold UK legal system supremacy as a sacrosant point of principle and your use of it in the Brexit debate was not on a principled basis, but only based on scale and extent of sovereignty pooling.

    I will take your inability to answer @Charles’ basic point as prooof that you agree with this, and so we can discount your point of principle on the ECJ and EU law, while still accepting in full that you don’t want anything to do with the EU. It would just be easier if you said simply that you don’t like the EU, rather then pretend you had any principle underly!ing this.

  6. @David Coulby – Trump’s tweet might actually be good news. If he is saying that he’s done all he wants to do, then it’s a release of further tensions.

  7. Nick

    There’s an old, daft saying which I’ve never used before [particularly because I don’t like parsnips] and it’s: “fine words butter no parsnips.”

    Anyway, as an aspiration there is nothing wrong with Corbyn’s words.

    The problem is that that is all it is: Assad has never had any intention of negotiating seriously or of leaving office.

    Talking through stuff is fine if there is something to talk about and somebody to talk about it with.

    I’m just not convinced that we would see much change in world affairs just because Corbyn was PM, or that his approach would really alter anything. Additionally there is the background concern that Russia could, for example, encroach further into Ukraine and he would still be saying “we need to talk.”

    I’m pleased that I am not a politician and don’t need to make such serious decisions myself.

  8. Not my field, but the airstrikes may also have wider significance in terms of the effectiveness of the systems used by each side.

    The allies say that no missiles were shot down, while the Russians say 71 were, with a number of airbases targetted but missed due to Syrian defences shooting down the incoming misslies. The US apparently deployed a new missile for the first time, while the supposedly top notch Russian air defence system wasn’t deployed, even though it could have been.

    Whatever the truth of the real events, each side may well have had a chance to look at what the other side has got, and judge how effective their own systems have been. Propaganda aside, each side will have a clear idea of the truth, and knowing who has the upper hand may well have significance for any future engagements, or indeed how far to push the rhetoric.

    It’s too early to say, but the generally greater trustworthiness of western media briefings compared to Russian and Syrian efforts, and the Russian response of calling for meetings and not backing up their earlier talk with any action tends to suggest that the western weaponry did well, and there isn’t an appetite to get into a conflict any deeper.

  9. crofty

    should have got parliamentary support.

  10. ALEC
    Perhaps, but the lack of ‘nous’ is astronomical. Those vainglorious words are burnt into the collective memory of every American. George Bush, stood in front of ‘that’ banner on an aircraft carrier, in a USAF flying jacket, and within weeks Iraq was in flames. Even someone as gormless as Trump should know better than to go there.


    Trump’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ remarks, suggest to me that this is the end of it.

    So as long as Russia doesn’t choose to escalate it, all’s well that ends well. At least no harm has been done.

    Whether any good’s been done is a moot point. But at least it underlines the principle that you can’t use chemical weapons and assume there’ll be no response at all.

    I know this will come as a disappointment to ‘liberals’ in the US who favour getting bogged down in hopeless wars and causing orgies of death and destruction. Or to Corbyn etc in this country, who were hoping it would all go wrong.

    And the US, UK, France, relationship stays intact

    But there we are. That’s what happens when you have conservatives in the White House and in Downing Street.

  12. Alec
    You stagger me at times, you just cannot accept that anybody could possibly disagree with you.

    ” It would just be easier if you said simply that you don’t like the EU, rather then pretend you had any principle underly!ing this.”

    Fine if it will stop you bleating, then I want us to leave the EU because it is a matter of regaining as much sovereignty as we can, as we do so. Sovereignty was the mains issue for me in voting to leave the EU, and it is very much a matter of principle with me, so I’m not pretending anything.

    As you well know although I have many other reasons for leaving but I am happy to please you by saying I don’t like the EU, as I believe it is corrupt, undemocratic and potentially very unstable. I am sure you knew that already. Haven’t you got better things to do? I’m off to help my wife in the garden.

    I blame Assad (and Putin).

    I blame Thatcher.”

    I blame Bono.

  14. New poll
    Westminster voting intention:

    CON: 40% (-2)
    LAB: 40% (-1)
    LDEM: 9% (+2)
    UKIP: 4% (-)
    GRN: 2% (-)

    via @YouGov, 09 – 10 Apr

  15. Also are LIb Dems starting to improve

    2 council election saw them improve and the CONS shed a fair percentage. Middleton Cheney (South Northants CON Hold) CON -21.60% and Chichester -27.30% (LIb Dem Gain)

  16. Someone once asked Fay Weldon (author of Life and Times of a She-Devil) whether she would vote LAB of CON in the next election.

    Her reply: ‘For me it’s quite simple: books or bombs.’

    Exactly so.

  17. Toby Ebert,

    ” ‘For me it’s quite simple: books or bombs.’”

    But how do you decide when for decades both have to all intents and purposes the same defence policy.

    Apart for anything else no matter what the left think, it is still difficult to win a UK general election on a policy of reduced defence spending or abandoning Trident.


  18. ” ‘For me it’s quite simple: books or bombs.’”

    Simplistic rather than simple.

  19. Now Trump has shot his load, hopefully he will not have the urge for a while.

    What a pointless exercise, thank goodness.

  20. MATT126

    New poll
    Westminster voting intention:

    CON: 40% (-2)
    LAB: 40% (-1)
    LDEM: 9% (+2)
    UKIP: 4% (-)
    GRN: 2% (-)

    Old news for the UKPR in-crowd of course (see my post at 7:01pm last night):

    The accompanying YouGov article is now published:

    and highlights the spike in Crime as an issue that I mentioned (though not how Labour relatively benefited from it).

  21. Adding that YG poll to my regional model you get:

    Con 302
    Lab 280
    SNP 30
    LD 15

  22. @CROFTY

    I don’t think it is simplistic, surely; she’s talking abour priorities.


    Well, maybe so….all the same, we can but try.

  23. Matt
    I commented yesterday on the Middleton Cheney by-election and how it might be viewed in the light of the bankrupt County council attempting to close their library. It appears that neither lab nor lib even bothered to stand last time yet this time together took more than half of the vote.

    If I were a Northamptonshire MP I might be looking at that result and feeling slightly nervous, feelings are running very high all across the county on this issue and 1997 demonstrated that Labour is an option even in one of the bluest of the shires.

  24. Perhaps it’s time Corbyn came clean with the public and declared his version of the Labour Party is a committed pacifists party and spelled out in plain language that under no circumstances would he ever commit the U.K. to military action.
    He could site that in all the years he has spent as an MP he has voted against the U.K. taking military action at every opportunity.
    Who knows maybe he will find enough support amongst the public for his pacifist ideals to propel him to no 10 .

  25. @TOH – “You stagger me at times, you just cannot accept that anybody could possibly disagree with you.”

    Slightly baffled by that, if I’m being honest, as you’ve just agreed with me from I can tell.

  26. Alec

    Good, then we are both happy, Sovereignty was the mains issue for me in voting to leave the EU, and sovereignty is very much a matter of principle with me so I am glad you accept that at last.

  27. @TURK

    Well Corbyn was right about Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan (probably). So which wars was he wrong about, in your opinion?

  28. NickY

    “should have got parliamentary support.”

    Agree, I suspect though a political decision to avoid a vote, probably sensible. I still think she would have won it but my biggest hope is they’ve succeeded in destroying all of the chemical weapons Syria had at their disposal. Who would want to be a politician?

  29. Roger Mexico

    YG tables still showing 3% for BNP in Scotland, and 0% in E&W.

    Either a rogue sample, respondents who can’t distinguish between “S” and “B”, or a little YG gremlin?

  30. Turk

    Nicely put, it would be good if he came clean. We could thensee what happens in the polling which would inevitably follow such a statement from him.

  31. It’s a bit odd that everyone tends to talk about military action as being the decisive thing when it seems that economy and sanctions have likely to have a far bigger affect:

    To be honest I’ve watched the last few weeks events regarding Russia and not felt there was really much practical difference between Corbyn and May. A few diplomats expelled and an airstrike that will probably still have both Assad and Putin testing the fence, although perhaps made them move on to another part of the fence.

  32. TB

    As far as I see it it’s not a matter of right or wrong but a matter of conviction.
    Corbyn is a pacifist he should declare it instead of hiding behind the useless UN talking shop ,make it the centre core of Labours policy and we will see if the public agree.
    As I said the public may well think a leader who will never commit U.K. forces to foreign adventures and dispose of the U.K. nuclear deterrent as just the man to lead the country after all there’s plenty on here who would vote for just that.

  33. @SHEVII

    There’s only going to be one winner of the Syrian civil war, and that’s Assad. The sooner he wins, and fighting stops the sooner innocent people will stop getting killed.

    The airstrikes are just a way for our politicians to feel better about themselves.

  34. @TURK

    So, just to repeat, which wars was Corbyn wrong about? If you can’t think of any he must have been right.

  35. TB

    I’m amazed that anybody thinks that once Assad has won he will stop killing his people. His whole history is of the murder and torture just how is that going to stop once he has regained total power in the country, do you honestly think he is going to forgive all those who stood against him.

  36. TB

    Regarding Corbyns voting I think he was totally wrong to vote against bombing
    ISIL twice both in Iraq and Syria he along with others was wrong to vote against removing Assad in 2013.
    He was also wrong to campaign before he joined Westminster against the Falklands war and I suspect I could also if bothered find lots of other incidents were I disagreed with Corbyns voting record concerning matters of defence. But again I return to my point he is a pacifist in all but name he should come out declare it as Labour policy and put it to the public.

  37. To any scientist – a question.

    Does bombing a chemical weapons plant or store, guarantee that the toxic chemicals are destroyed? Or could the bombing release them into the environment?

  38. @ TURK
    “I’m amazed that anybody thinks that once Assad has won he will stop killing his people. His whole history is of the murder and torture just how is that going to stop once he has regained total power in the country, do you honestly think he is going to forgive all those who stood against him”

    That’s the role of the Western Alliance, to ensure that human rights are upheld as the end game of the war moves to settlement.

    There’s been massive ethnic displacement in Syria, and some form of solution similar to the Balkans will be required. Syria is certainly no longer viable as a single state.

    Add in Turkey, with their determination to strangle Kurdistan, and it is very messy.

  39. @Alec:

    I find it remarkable that Remainers seem to think that the objection to the continued jurisdiction of the ECJ and EU law as some sort of artificial redline.

    No state is subject to the court of another entity, nor the law made by another state’s legislature. As Michael Barnier might say: It does not happen, it does not exist.

    Yet Remainers treat it as perfectly normal to have such a thing.

    The problem is really that in a democracy your people should vote towards the legislature. EU law is made by the EU’s legislature, and we won’t be apart of it. The ECJ interprets the law made by that process – setting aside that it prides itself on bias towards unification (see “teleological method”) its interpretations can be overturned by EU legislative process. There is nothing wrong the ECJ’s interpretations being subject to new legislation – it is essential to democracy that it should be so, but it is subject to the EU’s legislative process.

    So, if we absolutely must be subject to EU law, then we absolutely must be in the EU.

    So, there really is no such thing as a soft Brexit.

  40. JB

    You can’t believe the Western Alliance is going to stop any civilian deaths in Syria after the civil war ends.
    Since Obama’s red line failer in 2013 Russia has been the only game in town regarding Syria not the west. You remember them ,they like to try and murder people with banned weapons as well, not much hope for the Syrian opposition with Assad and the Russians in charge.

  41. Oldnat,

    “Does bombing a chemical weapons plant or store, guarantee that the toxic chemicals are destroyed? Or could the bombing release them into the environment?”

    Depends on the warhead, the US post Iraq did work on developing high temperature explosives which were designed to destroy any chemicals when they exploded.

    One of the difficulties is that penetrating warheads that can destroy deep bunkers using kinetic energy aren’t always compatible with high thermal energy (I know that’s true but don’t really understand the technical side of why).

    A two missile option could work, the first to penetrate and puncture the bunker and a quick follow up to deliver a high temperature thermal ground burst.

    In a way one result of Iraq is that we put a lot of thought into how to safely destroy chemical and biological weapons.


  42. Oldnat

    Not my area of expertise but my understanding is that such compounds need to be weaponised for delivery and are usually quite fragile compounds. My understanding is they are usually not kept in a state which is hazardous.

    I believe this was one excuse (which was widely refuted as impossible by experts at the time) used by the Assad regime that they didn’t use chemical weapons but merely bombed the chemical weapon stores of the “terrorists” in the aftermath of one of their gas attacks.

  43. Peter


    It might be reassuring if the USA and its bombing allies confirmed that that was the method they used.

    Might be worth OCWR (?) popping down to those sites, while they’re in Syria anyway, to confirm that there has been no environmental damage – good PR for US etc, if nothing else

  44. Alan


  45. From Britain Elects

    Westminster voting intention:

    LAB: 41%
    CON: 40%
    LDEM: 7%
    UKIP: 4%
    GRN: 2%

    via @ComRes, 11 – 12 Apr
    First ComRes VI since GE2017.

  46. Busy night on Britain Elects. Now reporting:

    Westminster voting intention:

    CON: 40% (-2)
    LAB: 40% (-)
    LDEM: 7% (+1)

    via @OpiniumResearch, 10 – 12 Apr
    Chgs. w/ 15 Mar

  47. They must be pulling their hair out at Tory HQ when the results of these polls come in.

    They’ve thrown everything but the kitchen sink at Corbyn and yet the Labour party support has barely been nudged.

    Furthermore the polls out at the moment pre-empt two important events – one is the free bus passes for under 25’s and the other is May’s bombing of Syria, which as polls seems to show, is hugely unpopular. I could see that having a very slight affect on the polls in Labours favour, and help boost turnout for younger voters in the run up to the local elections.


    I don’t think it is simplistic, surely; she’s talking abour priorities.”

    “Books before bombs” is pleasingly alliterative and very neat but, in my view, offers a false dichotomy.

    There are many, many examples in history where evil regimes banned books. In such examples the only protection was whatever the equivalent of bombs were in those times – basically it sometimes just comes down to the necessary exercise of power.

    I realise it is also a metaphor and I am not claiming any equivalence with what has occurred in Syria.

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