Will Syrian No-Fly Zone Trigger U.S. Conflict With Russia?

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The FINANCIAL — Some lawmakers are proposing that the U.S. military establish a no-fly zone in Syria to protect civilians in that civil war-torn country, and voters here tend to think that’s a good idea. But they also worry that it may lead to a U.S.-Russian military conflict.

Forty-five percent (45%) of Likely U.S. Voters favor a U.S.-imposed no-fly zone in Syria in order to stop the Syrian government from bombing civilian areas. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 26% oppose the creation of a no-fly zone, while even more (29%) are undecided. 

Just 31%, however, believe the imposition of a no-fly zone will decrease the level of violence in Syria. Sixteen percent (16%) expect it to increase the violence, while another 31% say a no-fly zone will have no impact. Twenty-two percent (22%) are not sure.

Two-out-of-three voters (67%) are concerned that a U.S.-imposed no fly zone will bring the United States into direct military conflict with Russia, with 29% who are Very Concerned. Twenty-four percent (24%) don’t share that concern, but that includes only five percent (5%) who are Not At All Concerned.

Similarly, 68% think the radical Islamic group ISIS is likely to take advantage of the no-fly zone to consolidate and expand its gains in Syria, with 39% who say that’s Very Likely. Fifteen percent (15%) feel ISIS is unlikely to try to capitalize on the no-fly zones, but only three percent (3%) say it’s Not At All Likely. Seventeen percent (17%) are not sure.

The high level of undecideds suggests that policymakers on both sides have work to do to familiarize voters with the no-fly zone issue.

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The situation in Syria has gotten a lot more complicated in recent days with Russia and Iran committing military forces to the ongoing civil war there to help their ally, embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and to fight the growing presence of ISIS. President Obama isn’t happy since he wants to see Assad and ISIS both gone. Just 11% of U.S. voters believe the United States should regard Russia as an ally when it comes to the war against ISIS in the Middle East.

Forty-seven percent (47%) of voters now believe that Syria is a vital national security interest to the United States, a significant jump from previous findings, but just as many (48%) still think the United States should leave the Syrian situation alone rather than get more involved.

Seventy-two percent (72%) still agree with former President Ronald Reagan that “the United States should not commit its forces to military action overseas unless the cause is vital to our national interest.”

Unlike most major issues facing the nation, Republicans and Democrats are equally supportive of a U.S.-established no-fly zone in Syria but also agree that it isn’t likely to decrease the level of violence there. Voters not affiliated with either major party are less enthusiastic about the idea.

But GOP voters and unaffiliateds are more concerned than Democrats that a no-fly zone will lead to a direct military conflict with Russia. Democrats are also less likely to believe that ISIS will take advantage of the situation.

Among voters who favor the establishment of a no-fly zone, 52% believe it will decrease the level of violence in Syria. Just 17% of those who oppose such a zone agree.

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Most voters who support a no-fly zone think ISIS is likely to exploit the situation, but they’re not nearly as worried as opponents are.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of all voters now regard ISIS as a Very Serious threat to the United States.

Sixty-six percent (66%) did back Obama’s plan to expand airstrikes against ISIS in Syria last year.  But voters aren’t happy with the way the president has been fighting ISIS since then.

Few voters agree with the Obama administration’s plan to increase the total number of worldwide refugees accepted into the United States by 2017 in response to the ongoing flow of migrants from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries to Europe.

Forty-two percent (42%) of Americans view Russia as an enemy of the United States, up from 29% a year before.  But 56% of voters think the United States’ worsening relationship with Russia is bad for America.


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