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Survey of Syrian Opposition Reveals Desire for International Intervention

August 17, 2012

Washington, DC – IRI today released a survey of Syrian opposition and its analysis, the second Syria-related survey the Institute has released in the past month (see: IRI Poll: Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Desire New Government, Democracy).  Fieldwork was conducted from June 1 - July 2, 2012, and was undertaken in cooperation with international survey research firm Pechter Polls of Princeton, NJ. 

Given security considerations, the survey was conducted electronically using a referral, or “snowball” method, rather than through strictly random selection of respondents, as would be done in a public opinion poll.  To achieve broader representation, key individuals (or channels) were used to initiate the referral chain, ultimately reaching a sample of 1,168 opposition members, approximately 315 of whom were inside Syria.  Margin of error is not strictly applicable to this survey because of the non-random selection of respondents.

Key findings:

  • Respondents exhibited support for a range of international armed intervention measures, with the most support going to actions that would not involve an international presence on the ground.  Measures that would require only air power and air strike support scored the highest, including the imposition of a no-fly zone (average 6.35 on a scale of one to seven, seven being the strongest agreement), the establishment of humanitarian corridors (6.25 average) and armament training to the Free Syrian Army (6.25 average). 
  • While a slim plurality of respondents (24 percent) gave the Syrian National Council (SNC) the highest possible mark for legitimacy (selecting seven on a one to seven scale), the survey indicated the SNC is struggling to generate broad appeal in the opposition as the responses averaged only 4.95.
  • When asked what the most important post-Assad aims of the opposition would be, respondents scored establishing a strong judicial system and giving fair trials to suspected war criminals as two of the highest priorities with averages of 6.71 and 6.47, respectively.  At the same time, most placed a high premium on swift retribution: the idea of punishing war criminals without being delayed by judicial processes was also highly appealing to the opposition.
  • Opposition views on transitional timelines for a post-Assad Syria favored transitional government leading to elections (40 percent) or the Tunisian model of electing a constitutional assembly leading to elections (36 percent).  A minority favored immediately holding presidential or parliamentary elections and respondents mostly balked at the Egyptian model of electing a parliament and then drafting a constitution.
  • Respondents indicated a strong desire to live in a post-Assad Syria, with a total of 82 percent of those who are currently outside the country reporting they would return at least temporarily after Assad’s fall.


On September 21, 2012, IRI released additional information from this survey on the opposition's visions for a Post-Assad Syria.