POLITICS AUGUST 29, 2013
Advocates for a more restrained foreign policy, like Rand Paul, seem increasing ascendant in the Republican Party. Recently, Marco Rubio, a natural figure of the Republican establishment, came out against attacking Syria—even though most neoconservatives want an even more ambitious military operation than the one likely to come over the next few weeks. But despite the movement among Republican politicians, the Republican rank-and-file still seem relatively supportive of intervention.
To date, every survey about a hypothetical strike on Syria after chemical weapons use shows Republicans more supportive than the general public, than Democrats, and with a majority of Republicans on board. The Washington Post and Pew Research asked about whether the US should intervene if the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians. According to Pew, 56 percent of Republicans were on board compared to 46 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of the population; The Washington Post has 67 percent of Republicans supporting an attack, compared to 55 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of all adults.
More generally, CNN asked whether chemical weapons use would justify strikes on Syria. Here again, Republicans were most supportive. 73 percent of Republicans thought strikes would be justified, compared to 64 percent of Democrats.
And even without mentioning chemical weapons, Quinnipiac found that 56 percent of Republicans would support using cruise missiles, or other weapons that didn't endanger American lives, to attack the Syrian government, compared to 46 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of all adults.
Certainly, these numbers are lower than they would have been five or six years ago. And it's possible that the president's support for attacking Syria might lead some Republicans to oppose a policy that they would otherwise support. But even so, the establishment GOP's lurch on foreign policy seems to have gone quite a bit further than warranted by public opinion. At the very least, Republicans who support intervening in Syria can probably do so without fear of political repurcussions.