Framing of Syria issue key to public support

September 6, 2013

By Steven Kull (Originally published on CNN’s Global Public Square on September 5, 2013)

President Barack Obama must pull off a difficult balancing act if he wishes to bring the American public around to supporting – or at least not opposing – military action against Syrian targets. But contrary to some reporting, public opinion is not overwhelmingly opposed and is not even fully yet crystallized. Indeed, large numbers say they are not sure and, most significant, polls show that different ways of framing the objective of the action can elicit very different responses.

While the Obama administration has tried to frame the action as limited and narrowly targeted at degrading Syrian capacity to deliver chemical weapons and deterring their use, much analysis and commentary portrays the United States as potentially entering into military conflict with the Syrian government with an implied or explicit objective of influencing the outcome, of the civil war, by those who favor as well as oppose such a move. These different framings poll very differently.

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