New poll: No big bump for Trump approval after Syria airstrike

Correction: A previous headline misidentified the reported change in the U.S. president’s overall job approval rating. It has since been updated to more clearly reflect the poll’s findings.

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump’s airstrike on Syria did not significantly raise his overall job approval rating, according to a new
Marist College poll.

Thirty-nine percent of registered voters approve of Trump’s job performance, just a one-point difference from when Marist last reported it one week prior to the U.S. air strikes in Syria. This according to 1,069 adults polled this week, before Thursday’s announcements that the U.S. dropped a massive bomb on an Islamic State compound in Afghanistan and that it mistakenly killed 18 soldiers from a U.S.-backed rebel force battling the Islamic State.  

“As tensions mount, President Trump is facing a critical test as commander-in-chief,” Marist College Institute for Public Opinion Director Lee Miringoff said in a statement on Friday. “Instead of a rally ‘round the flag effect, Americans are still looking for President Trump to provide leadership and more careful planning to arrive at sound policies.”

Not all polls agree, and the Rasmussen Reports daily presidential tracking poll for Friday shows that 48 percent of likely U.S. voters approve of Trump’s job performance — a two-point hop from before the airstrikes. Rasmussen, which has traditionally found results that are more positive for Republicans than other polls, is considered an outlier.

According to the Marist poll, a slim majority of Americans also do not have confidence in the president to keep the nation safe, and there is a lack of trust in the president when faced with an international crisis, to weigh all the options before taking action, come up with a sound strategy, work well with allies, or make the right decisions, Marist reported.  

That came in a week in which Trump reversed course on a series of campaign positions. NATO was “obsolete” no more, he will not label China a currency manipulator, he is supporting the Export-Import Bank, and he directed the first direct attack by the U.S. on the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

On April 7, in response to the Syrian government’s chemical weapon attacks against Syrian civilians, the U.S. launched Tomahawk missiles on the airfield from which the chemical weapon attacks were launched. That in turn sparked condemnation from Russia, which is backing Assad.

A majority of Americans still do not think the president is a good leader for the nation, similar to when Marist asked voters the same question last month. To boot, 59 percent of Americans do not think Trump has a clear idea about what he wants the U.S. to do in Syria — compared to 50 percent who said in 2013 that then-President Barack Obama’s vision for Syria was muddied.

Seventy-two percent of Americans see global tensions as rising, with strong majorities of Democrats, 85 percent, independents, 70 percent, and Republicans, 64 percent, in agreement. North Korea lags the Islamic State group as a major threat to the U.S., according to public opinion.

As U.S. lawmakers have called for Trump’s Syria strategy in the wake of the Syria airstrike, 42 percent of Americans do support the removal of Assad but don’t think the U.S. should take an active role in his ouster. Twenty-two percent say the United States should take an active role in removing Assad, but 28 percent don’t think the U.S. should be involved at all.

Trump appears to have ruled out deeper American military intervention in Syria beyond the retaliatory strikes, telling Fox Business News in an interview that aired Wednesday, “Are we going to get involved with Syria? No.”

On the same day Trump declared relations with Moscow at “an all-time low” over divisions on Syria, he warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that in backing Assad, Putin was supporting someone who is “truly an evil person.” 

“I think it’s very bad for Russia. I think it’s very bad for mankind. It’s very bad for this world,” Trump told Fox Business News. 

What are Americans comfortable with? A majority — 56 percent — favor limited U.S. air strikes on military targets in Syria in response to the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons. Thirty-five percent oppose them. 

In the wake of the airstrikes, Democratic lawmakers have been arguing more vocally than Republicans that Trump needs a new authorization to use military force. In the poll results, 81 percent of Republicans favor the most recent airstrikes, while 48 percent of Democrats oppose. 

Republicans have criticized Obama for holding back on military action in Syria in 2013, but Americans were less receptive to them then, less than two years after the U.S. withdrew from Iraq. At the time, 58 percent of Americans opposed air strikes and only 32 percent of Americans supported them. 

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