Taking Sides On Syria: While Majority (73%) of Global Respondents Blame Syrian Government for Current Conflict, No Such Clarity on Which Side Has Used Chemical Weapons Avails

Majority (75%) Say Chemical Weapons a Crime Against Humanity With Severe Punishment to be Meted Out

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

New York — A new Reuters News poll conducted by global research company Ipsos finds that while a majority (73%) of respondents in 15 countries blame the Syrian government, led by President Bashar al-Assad, for having caused the current conflict in the Middle Eastern country compared with 27% who say anti-government groups have done so, there is little clarity on which side is suspected of using chemical weapons: most (36%) hold the al-Asaad regime accountable for using chemical weapons on their foes compared with only 8% who blame anti-government groups—but 26% say both factions have used the weapons, 3% who say neither and 28% who indicate they just don’t know.

Regardless of who has used what in the hardly ‘civil war’, 75% of respondents put chemical weapons in a warfare class of their own indicating that their use is worse than any conventional weapon and is a crime against humanity that must be stopped right away.

The results arrive at the heels of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons entering Syria under the authority of the unanimously-passed United Nations Security Council resolution to put Syrian chemical weapons under international control and to destroy them by the middle of 2014. The agreement was spurred by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, which, in itself, put a halt to any real ploy or projected American plans by President Barack Obama to intervene militarily in Syria over the open Pandora’s Box.

In any event, the negotiated settlement, for now, is on the side of a majority (52%) that opposed military intervention compared with 28% who supported the action and 19% who said don’t know what should be done either way.

Syria Draws Attention, Far and Wide…

The vast majority (92%) of those across the 15 countries surveyed have seen, heard or read about the current situation in Syria: two in ten (18%) have seen a great deal, four in ten (39%) a fair amount and one in three (36%) a little bit. One in ten (8%) have not heard anything at all. The issue is widely known about as at least eight in ten say they have heard something across each of the countries surveyed. Countries with the greatest awareness levels are France (97%), Great Britain (97%), Belgium (96%) and Italy (96%). They are followed by Germany (95%), United States (95%), Sweden (94%), Poland (92%), Spain (92%), with Argentina (91%), Canada (91%), Hungary (90%), Australia (89%), South Korea (84%) and Japan (83%) rounding out the bottom of the list.

Syrian Government Get’s the Most Blame for the Conflict…

Considering that there actually has been fighting in Syria for many months between government forces and various anti-government groups, based on what they’ve seen, read or heard, three quarters (73%) of international respondents indicate the President Bashar al-Assad led Syrian government is most to blame for having caused the conflict. Alternatively, three in ten (27%) blame the anti-government groups.

Those most likely to blame the government are from Spain (83%), Great Britain (80%), Sweden (79%), Japan (76%), South Korea (76%), Poland (75%), Canada (73%), Belgium (72%), Italy (72%), United States (72%), Australia (71%), Germany (71%), France (70%), Hungary (67%) and Argentina (60%).

But No Such Clarity on Who Has Used Chemical Weapons in Syria Avails…

When respondents are told that United Nations observers have confirmed that chemical weapons have been used in Syria but have not determined which group or side is responsible, one in three (36%), a plurality, believe that the Syrian government is the group that has actually used chemical weapons that have killed many civilians based on what they have seen, read or heard. Only 8% seem to blame anti-government groups. One quarter (26%) blame both groups, 3% think neither have used chemical weapons and three in ten (28%) do not know.

There is considerable variability with regards to who is blamed for using chemical weapons in Syria: half of those in Sweden (49%) and Great Britain (45%) say the government of Syria is responsible, followed by Germany (42%) and 38% in Australia, Canada, Poland and the United States. They are followed by South Korea (37%), France (36%), Hungary (35%), Spain (34%), Japan (32%), Belgium (28%), Italy (28%) and Argentina (17%).

Conversely, support for the belief that the anti-government groups are responsible for the use of chemical weapons is highest in: Poland (12%), Hungary (11%), Italy (11%) and Argentina (11%). The list continues with Belgium (10%), Canada (9%), United States (8%), Australia (7%), Great Britain (6%), Germany (6%), South Korea (6%), Spain (6%), Japan (6%), Sweden (5%) and France (5%).

Those most likely to say both groups are responsible hail from Spain (38%), South Korea (35%), Italy (34%) and Argentina (32%). France (28%), Belgium (28%), Japan (26%), United States (24%), Germany (23%), Poland (23%), Sweden (20%), Australia (20%), Canada (20%), Great Britain (18%) and Hungary (16%) follow next.

There are those who believe neither group is responsible, though the proportions are low in each country surveyed: Argentina (8%), Germany (6%), Japan (4%), Australia (3%), France (3%), Hungary (3%), Spain (3%), Italy (3%), Great Britain (2%), Canada (2%), Poland (2%), United States (2%), South Korea (2%), Belgium (2%) and Sweden (1%).

There are also those who do not know who is responsible: Hungary (35%), Belgium (33%), Australia (32%), Japan (32%), Canada (31%), Argentina (31%), Great Britain (29%), United States (29%), France (28%), Poland (25%), Italy (25%), Sweden (24%), Germany (23%), South Korea (20%) and Spain (19%).

Except that Chemical Warfare’s Seen As a Crime against Humanity…

Three quarters of respondents (75%) in 15 countries declare using a chemical weapon to be worse than any conventional weapon and is a crime against humanity that must be stopped right away and those using it punished severely, even if it is the head of a government. Conversely, only 25% view it as the same as any conventional weapon that could be used in a military conflict.

Those most likely to consider it to be worse are from: South Korea (90%), Hungary (84%), Japan (81%), Argentina (77%), Belgium (77%), Sweden (76%), Australia (75%), Poland (74%), Italy (73%), Spain (73%), Canada (72%), Great Britain (70%), France (69%), United States (69%) and Germany (66%).

Military Intervention Not the Answer…

Before the recent decision by the UN Security Council was reached, the prospect of military intervention seemed strong as support for both action at home in the United States and abroad was anemic. At the time, respondents were informed that ‘since learning of the most recent chemical gas attack, countries such as the United States, France, Great Britain and the Arab League has blamed the Syrian government for the use of the chemical weapons while the Syrian government denies having done so and blames it on the anti-government "rebels". Russia and China continue to support the Syrian government. The United States has indicated that it could take a very focused military action, such as using what are called Tomahawk Cruise missiles fired from offshore navy ships that would hit specific targets in Syria believed capable of producing and/or deploying chemical weapons. The military strike would have the specific objective of preventing future chemical weapons use, would not send soldiers into Syria and would be limited in duration and scope’.

Based on this information, a majority (52%) of those in 15 countries say they would oppose military action – 28% oppose very much, 24% oppose somewhat – while three in ten (28%) would support – 7% very much, 21% somewhat – and two in ten (19%) do not know.

The strongest opposition for military intervention arose from Argentina (68% oppose - 50% very much, 19% somewhat), Italy (68% - 36%, 32%), Germany (58% - 29%, 29%), Great Britain (56% - 28%, 28%), Spain (56% - 39%, 17%), France (54% - 32%, 22%), United States (54% - 33%, 21%) and Hungary (53% - 33%, 21%). They are followed by Japan (51% - 20%, 32%), Poland (51% - 30%, 21%), Belgium (50% - 26%, 24%), Sweden (48% - 19%, 29%), Canada (46% - 21%, 25%), Australia (39% - 20%, 19%) and South Korea (34% - 8%, 25%).

With Majorities Insisting their Own countries Stay Out of the Action…

The defeat of British PM David Cameron in the House of Commons for throwing Britain’s support behind President Obama for military intervention now seems prophetic indeed.

Based on what they have seen, read or heard, six in ten international citizens opposed (57% - 35% very much, 21% somewhat) their ‘own country supporting or joining the United States in a military strike that would have the specific objective of preventing future chemical weapons use, would not send soldiers into Syria and would be limited in duration and scope.’

Only one quarter (26%) would support – 7% very much, 19% somewhat – such action and 17% did not know what choice to make.

Opposition to their own country being involved in such a mission was in the majority across the board: Italy (76% oppose - 48% very much, 27% somewhat), Argentina (72% - 57%, 15%), Spain (66% - 51%, 15%), Great Britain (62% - 38%, 23%), Germany (60% - 37%, 23%), France (57% - 35%, 22%), Poland (56% - 39%, 17%), Belgium (55% - 34%, 22%), Hungary (54% - 37%, 17%), Japan (54% - 24%, 29%), Canada (53% - 29%, 24%), Sweden (53% - 32%, 21%), Australia (50% - 30%, 20%), United States (50% - 31%, 19%) and South Korea (34% - 8%, 27%).

And Most Would Not Have Been Swayed By UN Resolution Supporting the Strike…

Respondents were asked to consider if the coalition of countries had the support of a resolution of the United Nations to intervene militarily, would it make them more likely to support the coalition action, less likely to support the coalition action or would it have no impact on them, one way or the other. A plurality (46%) say it would have no impact, three in ten (32%) say it would make them support more and 22% say it would make them support less.

Indeed, those from Spain (64%), Hungary (62%), United States (50%), Poland (50%) and Italy (47%) are most likely to say UN support would have had no impact.

Those from South Korea (46%), Sweden (44%), Canada (41%), Japan (41%), Australia (36%) and Great Britain (36%) are most likely to say UN support would make them support more. They are followed by United States (33%), France (32%), Belgium (31%), Germany (29%), Poland (24%), Spain (24%), Italy (22%), Hungary (19%) and Argentina (16%).

Those most likely to say UN support would make them support less are from: Argentina (39%), Germany (35%), Italy (31%), Poland (26%), Belgium (24%), France (23%), South Korea (22%), Australia (21%), Great Britain (19%), Hungary (19%), Japan (18%), United States (17%), Canada (16%), Sweden (13%) and Spain (12%).

The proportions of those who say it would have no impact are: Spain (64%), Hungary (62%), United States (50%), Poland (50%), Italy (47%), France (45%), Belgium (45%), Argentina (45%), Great Britain (44%), Sweden (43%), Canada (43%), Australia (43%), Japan (41%), Germany (36%) and South Korea (32%).

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos Global @dvisor poll conducted between September 4th and September 18st, 2013 via the Ipsos Online Panel system in the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and the United States of America. An international sample of 12,039 adults aged 18-64 in the US and Canada, and age 16-64 in all other countries, were interviewed. Approximately 1000+ individuals participated on a country by country basis except in Argentina, Belgium, Hungary, Poland, South Korea and Sweden, where each have a sample 500+. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to the most recent country Census data. The precision of Ipsos online polls are calculated using a credibility interval. In this case, a poll of 1,000 is accurate to +/- 3.5 percentage points and one of 500 is accurate to +/- 5.0 percentage points in their respective general populations. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error. For more information on credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website at Ipsos website.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

John Wright
Senior Vice President
Ipsos Global Public Affairs

For all Reuters/Ipsos Polls go to: http://www.ipsos-na.com/news-polls/reuters-polls/

About Ipsos

Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. In October 2011 Ipsos completed the acquisition of Synovate. The combination forms the world’s third largest market research company.

With offices in 85 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across six research specializations: advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media, public affairs research, and survey management.

Ipsos researchers assess market potential and interpret market trends. They develop and build brands. They help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. They test advertising and study audience responses to various media and they measure public opinion around the globe.

Ipsos has been listed on the Paris Stock Exchange since 1999 and generated global revenues of €1,789 billion (2.300 billion USD) in 2012.

Visit www.ipsos.com to learn more about Ipsos’ offerings and capabilities.

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Taking Sides On Syria: While Majority (73%) of Global Respondents Blame Syrian Government for Current Conflict, No Such Clarity on Which Side Has Used Chemical Weapons Avails


Elen Alexov
Director, Marketing Services,
North America