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Nearly 80 percent of Americans believe President Barack Obama should receive congressional approval before using force in Syria, but the nation is divided over the scope of any potential strike, a new NBC News poll shows.
Fifty percent of Americans believe the U.S. should not intervene in the wake of suspected chemical weapons attacks by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to the poll. But the public is more supportive of military action when it's limited to launching cruise missiles from U.S. naval ships — 50 percent favor that kind of intervention, while 44 percent oppose it.
The two-day survey was conducted as the Obama administration weighs launching strikes against Syria for the alleged use of chemicals weapons in its violent civil war, as well as amid growing demands by U.S. lawmakers that Congress should have a voice in any debate to authorize force.
On Thursday night, the Obama administration briefed congressional leaders in its effort to make the case for military intervention.
Also on Thursday, Britain's Parliament rejected a motion urging an international response to the chemical weapons attacks blamed on the Syrian government.
But White House officials told NBC News that the administration was prepared to go it alone.
"As we've said, President Obama's decision-making will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States," Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House and the National Security Council, said in a statement.
In this new NBC poll, 50 percent of respondents oppose the U.S.'s taking military action in response to Syria’s suspected use of chemical weapons, compared with 42 percent who support it.
And 58 percent agree with the statement that the use of chemical weapons by any country violates a "red line" that requires a significant U.S. response, including the possibility of military action.
Still, a whopping 79 percent of respondents — including nearly 7 in 10 Democrats and 90 percent of Republicans — say the president should be required to receive congressional approval before taking any action.
The poll also finds that only 21 percent think taking action against the Syrian government is in the national interest of the U.S. By comparison, 33 percent disagree and 45 percent don't know enough to have an opinion.
And just 27 percent say that U.S. military force will improve the situation for Syrian civilians, versus 41 percent who say it won’t.
Obama's job approval at 44 percent
The NBC poll also shows that Obama's overall job-approval rating has dropped one point since last month, to 44 percent, which is tied for his lowest mark in past NBC News/Wall Street Journal surveys.
He gets even lower marks on foreign policy: Just 41 percent approve of his handling of the issue — an all-time low.
And only 35 percent approve of his handling of the situation in Syria.
The NBC poll was conducted Aug. 28-29 of 700 adults (including 210 cell phone-only respondents), and it has a margin of plus-minus 3.7 percentage points.
More on Syria from NBC News:
- Kerry calls attack against Syrian civilians 'crime against humanity'
- John Kerry's nine reasons for action in Syria
- Exclusive: Panetta says US can't wait for others to act on Syria
- Doctor: 'Apocalyptic' attack on Syrian schoolkids
- Read Secretary of State Kerry's full speech condemning Syria attack
- 'We will not repeat that moment': Why Syria isn't a rerun of Iraq
- Syrian Electronic Army seen as nuisance, not a serious cyberthreat