** Lib Dem members’ poll results on Syria ** Military intervention: 25% say No, 7% say Yes. 62% say Yes BUT…

by Stephen Tall on August 29, 2013

Lib Dem Voice yesterday polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of the situation in Syria. Some 580 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results today. The survey remains open and we’ll update these results in the next day or so if they change.

Lib Dem members: opposed to Iraq and Afghanistan wars; supportive of Libyan and Kosovo interventions

First, we asked about views of UK involvement in recent conflicts abroad. There was a big span of views. Unsurprisingly, given the Lib Dems were the only party to vote against military action against Iraq in 2003, members remain opposed, by an overwhelming 95% to 5%. However, on the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan (which the party broadly supported) opinion is more split: 57% oppose it compared to 43% who back it. However, there is strong backing by Lib Dem members for the UK’s military involvement in both Libya in 2011 (by 74% to 23%) and Kosovo in 1999 (by 86% to 7%). Support among Lib Dems for action in Syria is likely to hinge on which of these conflicts UK involvement starts to most resemble.

Thinking about the UK’s involvement in recent conflicts abroad, to what extent do you now support or oppose each of the following?

The UK’s involvement in the invasion and occupation of Iraq

    80% – Strongly oppose
    14% – Somewhat oppose
    TOTAL OPPOSE = 94%
    4% – Somewhat support
    1% – Strongly support
    TOTAL SUPPORT = 5%
    0% – Don’t know

The UK’s involvement in the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan

    28% – Strongly oppose
    29% – Somewhat oppose
    TOTAL OPPOSE = 57%
    34% – Somewhat support
    9% – Strongly support
    TOTAL SUPPORT = 43%
    1% – Don’t know

The UK’s involvement in enforcing a no-fly zone in Libya

    8% – Strongly oppose
    15% – Somewhat oppose
    TOTAL OPPOSE = 23%
    42% – Somewhat support
    32% – Strongly support
    TOTAL SUPPORT = 74%
    3% – Don’t know

The UK’s involvement in the military campaign to establish a UN peacekeeping presence in Kosovo

    3% – Strongly oppose
    4% – Somewhat oppose
    TOTAL OPPOSE = 7%
    29% – Somewhat support
    57% – Strongly support
    TOTAL SUPPORT = 86%
    6% – Don’t know

Lib Dems split on principles of UK overseas involvement

We next looked at some of the underlying principles behind UK involvement overseas. The most interesting result, I think, is the final one. Most Lib Dems accept there is a responsibility to act overseas in concert with other countries for specific reasons. But asked if that should be only reasons of self-defence and humanitarian aid, or could be for other purposes, our sample of party members split down the middle 46%-45%.

To what extent would you say that you agree or disagree with each of the following statements? Strongly disagree Somewhat disagree TOTAL DISAGREE Somewhat agree Strongly agree TOTAL AGREE Neither agree nor disagree
The UK has a responsibility to help those in danger abroad 3% 11% 14% 50% 20% 70% 16%
The UK is currently too overstretched as a result of recent conflicts (e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan) to intervene in any new conflicts 5% 19% 24% 38% 22% 60% 16%
Being a member of the European Union amplifies the UK’s ability to project military power abroad 5% 13% 18% 36% 18% 54% 27%
The UK has no right to intervene in the affairs of another country 20% 30% 50% 22% 9% 31% 19%
The UK can no longer afford to act as a major military power able to intervene in international affairs 9% 23% 32% 32% 23% 55% 13%
The UK should restrict its military to protecting UK territory and offering humanitarian aid internationally at times of crisis 17% 28% 45% 25% 21% 46% 9%

Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons: 38% more likely to back military action as a result

The alleged use of chemical weapons by Assad’s regime – crossing President Obama’s ‘red line’ – is the potential casus belli. And it has had a big impact on a substantial minority of Lib Dem members: 38% are more likely to support military action as a result. However, it has made no difference to a majority (52%), most of whom are opposed to military action as it stands (46%).

Last week there were reports that Syrian government forces have used chemical weapons against their opponents in a suburb of Damascus, the capital of Syria. Does this affect your view of whether Britain should take part in military action against the government of President Assad?

    38% – Yes, I now support military action MORE than I did before

    1% – Yes, I now support military action LESS than I did before

    6% – No, I support military action just as much as I did

    46% – No, I oppose military action just as much as I did

    8% – Don’t know

No to supporting anti-Assad troops – but enforcing no-fly zone divides opinion

What kind of intervention might Lib Dem members support if it comes to it? Offering any level of military support to the anti-Assad troops is opposed by a substantial majority of Lib Dem members. Missile strikes against military sites within Syria are also opposed by a 57% to 29% margin. However, the result is much closer when asked about enforcing a no-fly zone: 46% would oppose it, but 38% would back such an intervention.

Thinking about the situation in Syria, here are some things that Britain’s Government is reported to be considering, in partnership with other countries such as France and the United States. Would you support or oppose each of the following?

Sending defensive military supplies, such as anti-aircraft guns, to the anti-Assad troops

    29% – Support

    56% – Oppose

    14% – Don’t know

Sending full-scale military supplies, such as tanks and heavy artillery, to the anti-Assad troops

    7% – Support

    81% – Oppose

    11% – Don’t know

Using British aircraft and missiles to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria and, if necessary, use them against aircraft and airports operated by the Assad regime

    38% – Support

    46% – Oppose

    16% – Don’t know

Using British missiles, fired from ships off the coast of Syria, against military sites inside Syria

    29% – Support

    57% – Oppose

    14%– Don’t know

Military intervention: 25% say No, 7% say Yes. 62% say Yes BUT…

The big question we left to the end (deliberately) – should the UK join with other countries in a military attack against the Assad regime? One-quarter (25%) of Lib Dem members are outright opposed to military intervention. A much smaller group (7%) think military intervention is essential. The vast majority (62%) of Lib Dem members fall between these two opposed options, believing intervention might be right, but only under specific conditions. The most popular option sets a high bar for supporting a military strike: if there is compelling evidence of the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime AND Parliament approves military intervention with achievable outcomes AND the United Nations security council sanctions it – then, and only then, would 37% of Lib Dem members back military intervention.

Should Britain join the US and France in prosecuting missile strikes against the Assad regime in Syria?

    7% – Yes, intervention is essential

    12% – Yes BUT only if compelling evidence is found by UN inspectors of the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime

    9% – Yes BUT only if Parliament approves military intervention with achievable outcomes

    4% – Yes BUT only if the United Nations security council sanctions military intervention

    37% – Yes BUT only if ALL these conditions – compelling evidence; Parliamentary approval; United Nations sanction – are met

    25% – No, intervention is wrong

    6% – Other

    1% – Don’t know

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Some 580 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted on 28th and 29th August.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.