Students Staff

08 April 2013

Iraq ‘War Fatigue’ leaves voters reluctant to support action in Syria

Ten years after the fall of Saddam most Britons feel the war in Iraq was a failure, new research by academics from the University of Essex and Georgia State University in the US has found.

Among British adults, 51 per cent believed the action did not succeed. And the resulting ‘war fatigue’ is fuelling a deep reluctance to intervene in Syria among voters in both Britain and the US despite an escalating humanitarian crisis, the survey’s authors say.

The survey of 2,014 Britons and 1,990 Americans, carried out by YouGov, found just four per cent of Britons felt the Iraq war was mostly a success, while 31 per cent felt it was ‘somewhat’ a success. Twenty one per cent of Britons felt the war had mostly failed, and 30 per cent felt it had ‘somewhat’ failed.

There was strong opposition to the Iraq war among British respondents to the survey. Forty four per cent said they disapproved of the action, while 25 per cent approved.

In the US, there was a little more support for the war 10 years on, though the largest number of respondents were against it – 33 per cent approved, while 43 per cent disapproved. Eleven per cent of Americans said they felt the war had been mostly a success, and 33 per cent felt it had been somewhat successful, while 19 per cent felt it had mostly failed and 22 per cent said had ‘somewhat’ failed.

Dr Thomas Scotto from the University of Essex, the lead investigator in the study, said the fallout from action in Iraq and Afghanistan had led to ‘war fatigue’ on both sides of the Atlantic.

“Given the mixed results and heavy costs from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Syria could be a hard sell,” he said. “Political elites are not actively making a sustained case to the public for intervention.”

The survey was carried out twice - in May and June 2012 and again in February 2013. But despite a worsening humanitarian situation in Syria it did not find any increase in public support for military intervention by Britain or the US. Just 12 per cent of people in the UK and 15 per cent in America supported the use of ground troops to protect the Syrian public.

There was even less public enthusiasm for sending in troops to overthrow Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad, with just eight per cent of the UK public and nine per cent of Americans favouring such an option.

The figures showed virtually no change since an earlier survey in May and June 2012, despite reports of atrocities by the regime.

Dr Scotto is principal investigator on an Economic and Social Research Council-funded project called ‘The Structure, Causes, and Consequences of Foreign Policy Attitudes: A Cross-National Analysis of Representative Democracies.’ The YouGov survey was part of that project.


Notes to Editors

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