Poll: By a wide margin, Americans oppose bringing Syrian refugees into the country

A new Bloomberg poll shows that a significant majority of Americans oppose bringing Syrian refugees into the U.S.  By a 53-to-28 margin, Americans disagree with President Obama and many Democrats about admitting the refugees.  Another 11% think that only Christian Syrians should be allowed in.

The poll also shows that terrorism and concerns about ISIS have risen to the top of American's concerns.

More broadly, terrorism and the Islamic State group surged to the top of Americans’ concerns immediately following the deadly attacks, even as Republicans and Democrats remain divided over how best to address threats. The percentage of those rating terrorism or the Islamic State as top concerns has nearly doubled since the poll last was taken in September. At the same time, those who think the U.S. is on the right track fell to 23 percent, the lowest rating in more than three years. Obama’s disapproval rating rose to 51 percent, up 4 percentage points since September.

These trends may offer momentum to the Republican leaders of Congress as they begin hearings and consider threatening a government shutdown over Obama’s Syria policies, even as 64 percent of Americans say Islam is an inherently peaceful religion.

Terror in general, and specifically ISIS, the group that claimed responsibility for last week’s attacks, are cited by a combined 35 percent of Americans as the top issue in the survey conducted Nov. 15-17. That’s about the same as concerns about jobs, immigration, health care and the federal deficit combined. ISIS alone is the top issue for 21 percent of Americans, up from 11 percent in September. Terrorism is the top issue for 14 percent, up from 7 percent two months ago.

Despite ongoing tensions between the U.S. and Russia, 53 percent of Americans favor a U.S.-Russia military coalition to fight Islamic terrorism.

That finding is a reflection of the “any-friend-in-a-storm” psychology, said J. Ann Selzer, who conducted the poll. “Vladmir Putin is not a popular personality in this country,” she said of the Russian leader. “However, we're facing a common threat. Here's an opportunity to align. both Republicans and Democrats seem to say, 'Let's go.'”

There is no consensus about whether to send U.S. troops to Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS, with 44 percent for the idea and 45 percent against it, or whether the U.S. has done enough to protect the homeland from a Paris-style attack.

This is very bad news for Democrats running for office.  The American people have a lot more common sense than most politicians and must be as bewildered about the president's insistence in bringing weakly vetted Syrian refugees into the United States, as most of us are. 

It may turn out that 2016 will be the foreign policy election many of us thought we'd have in 2012.  If so, the president and his party will find themselves in a much weaker position than four years ago as a security-conscious public weigh their choices between a party that is willing to risk citizens' lives for some nebulous notion of "compassion" for refugees and a party that puts the security of its citizens first.

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