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100 Facts: Syria, foreign intervention, and public opinion

It’s that time again: time for football. Pumpkin spice lattes and the return of the NFL Red Zone channel mean that fall is here. This also means that it is  time for fantasy football. Matthew Berry is ESPN’s in-house Fantasy Football guru and he kicks off each season with a “100 Facts” post. Without commentary, he presents a hundred facts that interested folks should keep in mind when approaching their drafts. Last year, I took a crack at writing the 100 Facts you needed to know before the 2012 election. This year, the topic of the moment is - regrettably -  the conflict in Syria, the international institutions involved in preventing the use and spread of chemical weapons, and the U.S.’s potential action on the issue. 

With no further adieu, here you have it - the 100 facts you should keep in mind at this point regarding public attitudes toward the Syria situation and the American response options. They are presented without comment. Read into them what you will. They are not intended to push a particular agenda, but to illuminate the many factors that are at play in the public debate over the U.S.’s role in Syria.


1) In December 2012, 63% of Americans said they would support military action against the Syrian government if chemical weapons were used against its people.

2) At that time, 73% said we should not get involved in the war in Syria.

3) In September 2013, only 36% support missile strikes against Syria, even hearing that the U.S. government has determined that chemical weapons were used in the civil war there.

4) A majority in that poll said they would oppose this action even if Britain and France were involved.

5) Osama Bin Laden’s death was announced May 1, 2011.

6) In May 5-7 2011, NBC/Wall Street Journal had Obama’s job approval at 52%.

7) Obama’s economic job approval was only 37%.

8) Obama’s foreign policy job approval was 57%.

9) Congress’ job approval was 22%.

10) In August 2012, NBC/Wall Street Journal had Obama’s job approval at 48%.

11) His economic job approval was lower than his overall, 44%.

12) His foreign policy job approval was higher than his overall, at 54%.

13) In July 2013, before the Syria situation dominated the headlines, Obama’s job approval was 45%.

14) His economic job approval was 45%.

15) His foreign policy job approval was 46%.

16) Congress’ job approval was 12%.

17) Last week, Obama’s job approval was 44%.

18) His foreign policy job approval was lower than his overall at 41%.

19) Only 35% approved of Obama’s handling of Syria.

20) Over one out of five said they didn’t know how they felt.

21) Some 79% of respondents said that they had seen, read, or heard something about the Syrian government using chemical weapons.

22) Only 21% say that taking action in Syria is in our national interest.

23) Some 45% say they don’t know enough about it to have an opinion on whether taking action is in our national interest.

24) In June, Gallup asked Americans what their biggest concern was. A combined 23% picked unemployment or the economy.

25) A combined 8% picked wars in other countries or national defense.

26) 11% picked debt/deficit/nation’s finances.

27) Last year, the Pentagon ordered 361 Tomahawk missiles

28) The POLITICO report notes that “hundreds” of Tomahawks were fired during the 2011 Libya crisis.

29) The White House requested $320 million for its Tomahawk missile program for FY 2013, which would have included 196 missiles.

30) The Libya intervention, as of the end of July 2011, had cost the U.S. $896 million dollars. 

31) In July 2013, the U.S. Government’s “Interest Expense on Debt Outstanding" was $25,076,077,459.95.

32) Divided by 31, that amounts to roughly $810 million spent on interest every day of July 2013.

33) Some 35% of young voters say that we should have a smaller military and defense budget than we do now.

34) Only 17% say we should have a larger military and defense budget.

35) Only 23% told the Harvard Institute of Politics in Spring 2012 that the U.S. should take the lead in solving international crises and conflicts.

36) Some 73% said we should let the U.N. take the lead.

37) Last week, the British parliament voted not to intervene in Syria.

38) The president of France, Francois Hollande, spoke out in favor of military action.

39) The French people were among the most supportive of the intervention in Libya in the spring of 2011.

40) Britons were roughly divided.

41) Americans were the least supportive.

42) The UK is a member of the E.U. but is not a part of the Euro.

43) Some time before the end of 2017, Britons will vote on whether or not to stay a member of the E.U. at all. 

44) Pew shows that independent voters are the most likely to oppose intervention in Syria.

45) ABC/Washington Post polling shows that independent voters are the most likely to oppose intervention in Syria.

46) A majority of Republicans and Democrats agree that there is clear evidence that chemical weapons were used against civilians in Syria.

47) A majority of Republicans and Democrats and Independents all say that the U.S. should wait for a U.N. resolution to authorize the use of force before taking military action in Syria.

48) In the last decade, every time Gallup has asked, a majority of Americans have said that they think the U.N. does a poor job at handling the problems that it faces.

49) U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says that action against Syria for use of chemical weapons is only legal if taken in self-defense or with Security Council authorization.

50) There are five permanent and ten non-permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

51) China and Russia are permanent members with veto power.

52) Three times, China and Russia have blocked resolutions aimed at condemning Assad for his actions in Syria.

53) When asked if they have confidence in Obama’s international policies, 88% of Germans, 83% of the French, and 72% of Britons say they have confidence.

54) Among Americans, that number is 57%.

55) Among the Chinese and Russians, those numbers are 31% and 29% respectively. 

56) Americans’ favorable/unfavorable rating of Russia is 37-43.

57) The French and Germans are significantly more unfavorable toward Russia than Americans are.

58) Across the 38 countries surveyed, Russia’s overall favorability was only 36%.

59) China’s was 50%.

60) The United States’ was 63%.

61) A majority of Russians had a favorable view of the United States.

62) Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor both support authorizing the use of force in response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians.

63) Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi supports authorizing the use of force in response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians.

64) House Republican leadership has said the vote to authorize President Obama to use military force will be a “conscience vote.”

65) In July, during the debate over the NSA surveillance programs, the Amash amendment was debated in Congress, which would have stripped funding from a controversial program revealed to collect telephone record information.

66) The Amash amendment failed, 205-217.

67) 94 Republicans voted yes, 134 voted no.

68) 111 Democrats voted yes, 83 voted no.

69) Among the noes: Speaker Boehner, Leaders Cantor and Pelosi.

70) The most-viewed YouTube video of the aftermath of the chemical weapons attack in Syria was uploaded thirteen days ago by London’s ITN Productions’ "Truthloader" citizen-journalism original YouTube channel.

71) It has been viewed over 1,100,000 times in the last thirteen days.

72) It comes with a warning before you are allowed to see the video, warning you about the disturbing images it shows. (Consider this another warning.)

73) Secretary of State John Kerry says that the U.S. has evidence that sarin gas was used in the attack.

74) The attacks killed at least 1,429 civilians including over 400 children.

75) Bashar al-Assad is an Alawite, a sect of Islam that represents around 12% of Syria’s population. 

76) Some 74% of Syrians are Sunni Muslims.

77) A majority of Syrians are under the age of 25.

78) A third of Americans are under the age of 25.

79) Syria is bordered by: Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon.

80) After becoming independent and enduring over a decade of unrest and instability, in November 1970, Hafiz al-Assad became leader of Syria.

81) Thirty years later, following Hafiz al-Assad’s death, the reins were handed over to Bashar al-Assad who has been the leader of Syria since 2000.

82) Saudi Arabia supports U.S. action against Assad and has supported the rebels in Syria.

83) Chemical weapons are known as the weapons “that even Hitler would not use" in warfare.

84) Syria is one of five nations that has neither signed nor acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention. The other four are: Angola, Egypt, South Sudan, North Korea.

85) On August 20, 2012, President Obama made the now famous “red line" comments regarding Syria’s use of chemical weapons. 

86) Syria is not the only country where there is a “red line" around weapons of mass destruction.

87) Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, condemned the use of chemical weapons on his English language Twitter feed.

88) 89% of Iranians are Shia Muslims.

89) In June 2013, 58% of respondents in a CBS/New York Times poll favored taking military action to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

90) In that same poll, 58% of respondents said that the U.S. should not take the lead in dealing with international conflicts.

91) Ten years earlier, only 43% said that the U.S. should not take the lead in trying to solve conflicts.

92) In the August 2013 NBC/WSJ poll, 58% said that the use of chemical weapons by a nation would constitute crossing a “red line.”

93) Washington Posts’ “The Fix” blog features an estimated “whip count” for Congressional authorization of the use of force in Syria, and currently shows 59 senators as “undecided.”

94) All four senators who are a definite “no” are Republican.

95) Three of those four senators assumed office on January 3, 2011.

96) In 2002, then Sen. Lincoln Chafee was the only Republican Senator to vote “no” on authorizing the use of force in Iraq, along with 22 of his Democratic colleagues.

97) In 2002, then Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Joseph Biden voted “yes” on authorizing the use of force in Iraq.

98) Some 79% of voters told the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that the president should have to receive Congressional approval before taking action in Syria.

99) In 2011, a resolution supported by then-Sen. Kerry and Sen. McCain that would have declared support for the President’s actions in Libya failed in the U.S. House of Representatives by a 295-123 vote with 70 Democrats crossing the aisle to join with Republicans in voting it down.

100) However, “No U.S. president has ever been turned down by Congress when asking to use military force.



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