How Attacking Syria Affected Trump's Approval Numbers

April 10th 2017

Kyle Jaeger

President Donald Trump's decision to order a missile strike against a Syrian airfield last week didn't seem to win him favor among voters, according to the latest Gallup poll.


Though the military action was applauded by a mix of moderates in Congress and a handful of political analysts, it didn't move the needle in terms of Trump's approval ratings. In the days since the attack – which was ordered in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack carried out by the Syrian regime on April 4 – his approval rating has stagnated at 40 percent.


It could be that voters haven't fully formed opinions on the strike, as The Independent pointed out. At this point, however, it doesn't appear the action will cause a dramatic shift in public sentiment toward the president, who has suffered from historically low approval ratings throughout his first term in office.

The expectation that military action would improve Trump's standing has precedent.


In times of crisis, public approval for U.S. presidents tends to spike — a phenomenon political scientists have described as the "rally 'round the flag" effect. President George W. Bush hit a high of 86 percent approval following the September 11 terrorist attacks while his father, President George H. W. Bush, reached a 89 percent approval rating after taking action to repel the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, according to the Pew Research Center.

In this case, the limited action against the Syrian government has had no effect on public opinion.

Critics of the missile strike have argued that Trump should have sought congressional approval, while others have characterized the attack as an "empty gesture" that failed to deter indiscriminate attacks against Syrians by the regime and its allies.