The increasingly bloody civil war in Syria concerns Americans, a CNN/ORC poll released Wednesday showed, though the prospect of sending military assistance from the U.S. and other countries or using air power to assist rebels has Americans divided.
The poll showed 29% of Americans saying they're very concerned, and 43% saying they're somewhat concerned, about the situation in Syria. Twenty-six percent said the situation in Syria did not concern them.
On Wednesday, 103 people were killed across Syria, according to the Local Coordination Committee, a Syrian based opposition activist network. The latest violence comes after 16 months of bloodshed that began in March 2011, when a fierce government crackdown against protesters morphed into a nationwide uprising against the regime.
The Syrian crisis has claimed roughly 17,000 lives since it erupted last year, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last month. Opposition activists have put the toll at more than 20,000.
In Wednesday's poll, Americans were largely split on whether or not the U.S. should partner with other countries to send military assistance to Syrian rebels. Forty-six percent favored the U.S. and other countries using air power to establish safe zones in Syria, compared to 49% who opposed taking that measure.
Last week, President Barack Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser said that Obama was keeping all options on the table to help the Syrian opposition in its battle to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including the possibility of implementing a no-fly zone.
"I don't recall the president ever saying that anything was off the table," John Brennan, Obama's deputy national security adviser, said at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.
Obama has signed a covert directive authorizing U.S. support for Syrian rebels battling al-Assad's forces, U.S. officials said two weeks ago. The secret order, referred to as an intelligence "finding," allows for clandestine support by the CIA and other agencies.
The administration has come under fire from some members of Congress for taking what they say is a "hands-off approach" towards Syria.
Sixty-four percent of Americans said they opposed sending U.S. and other countries' troops into Syria to establish safe zones for rebels. Thirty-two supported sending ground troops into the country.
Arming the Syrian opposition, a move the Obama administration has resisted in part because U.S. officials don't know enough about the rebels, also splits Americans. Forty-eight percent said in Wednesday's poll they favored sending weapons and other supplies to Syrian opposition forces, while 47% were opposed to taking that step.
In the larger scheme of U.S. priorities, Americans are divided on where to place removing al-Assad's regime. Nineteen percent said taking the Syrian government from power should be a "very important" goal for the U.S., compared to 46% who said it should be a "somewhat important" goal and 33% said removing al-Assad's regime was "not important."
The CNN/ORC poll was conducted by telephone between August 7-8 from 1,010 adults. The sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.