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Paul Steinhauser CNN Political Editor
Published: 09 September 2013

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A majority of Americans don't think it is worth attacking Syria militarily just to punish the regime of Bashar al-Assad over alleged chemical weapons use, according to a new national poll.

The CNN/ORC International survey released Monday also indicates that a majority of respondents worry U.S. intervention in the Syrian civil war might lead to wider conflict in the region that could involve the use of American troops and trigger new chemical attacks, possibly against the United States at home.

But the poll conducted over the weekend also shows that more than half of the respondents believe a military strike against Syrian forces is worth it to deter and degrade the ability of al-Assad to launch future chemical attacks.

"And a slight majority also says preventing other countries from developing and using chemical or nuclear weapons would make U.S. military action in Syria worthwhile," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

The survey indicates six in 10 say it's not worth attacking Syria to punish al-Assad's forces over the alleged use of chemical weapons against their own citizens, with 39 percent saying a strike would be worth it to punish Damascus.

More than seven in 10 say that a larger war would develop and two-thirds say Washington would eventually send ground troops to Syria if the U.S launches an attack.

Two-thirds also say the Syrian government would use chemical weapons in the future even if the United States launches an attack, and more than six in 10 say that terrorists would use chemical weapons stateside if the United States were to strike.

"More than eight in 10 Americans say the United States should not choose sides in the Syrian conflict and only three in 10 think that it is worth attacking Syria to remove" al-Assad from power, adds Holland.

The poll's release comes hours before President Barack Obama sits down for interviews with major U.S. broadcast and cable news networks, including CNN, and one day before he addresses the nation in prime time to make the case for military action.

Are there any goals that the president could articulate that the public would find worthwhile?

Yes, and they all involve weapons of mass destruction. Although most Americans don't think it's worth an attack just to punish Syria for its use of chemical weapons in the past, 53 percent say it's worth it to deter and degrade Syria's ability to launch future chemical attacks.

Majorities also say that preventing other countries from developing and using chemical (51 percent) or nuclear weapons (55 percent) would make U.S. military action in Syria worthwhile.

But 54 percent say that it's not worth the risk to attack simply to maintain U.S. credibility in the world.

Nearly two-thirds say it's not worth attacking Syrian government forces to reduce their advantage over the various anti-government rebel groups, two thirds say it's not worth attacking to remove the Syrian government from power, and 85 percent say the United States should not take sides in the country's civil war.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International September 6-8, with 1,022 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.


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