September 16, 2015 / 7:42 PM / 4 years ago

How many Syrian refugees to accept? Poll finds U.S. divided

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Few Americans want their country to take in more Syrian refugees even though many believe the United States should do more to help those fleeing the Middle Eastern country’s brutal civil war, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday.

A Frontex zodiac (front L) approaches a dinghy with Syrian refugees onboard (front R) that was tugged by a United States flagged sailing boat (C) near the shores of the Greek island of Lesbos, September 16, 2015. REUTERS/Yiorgos Moutafis

As European countries struggle to cope with an influx of Syrians fleeing their war-torn country, the survey found that Americans are similarly divided on accepting refugees.

The United States has taken in 1,500 refugees since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, and President Barack Obama has committed to accepting 10,000 more over the coming year.

Some 35 percent of those surveyed said that figure was too high. Another 23 percent said that was about right, while 20 percent said the United States should take in more.

The online survey of 1,251 U.S. adults was conducted between Sept. 11 and Sept. 15. It has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

The split reflects the debate in Washington, where refugee advocates say the United States is not doing enough to address the humanitarian crisis triggered by the war, while some congressional Republicans worry that an increase could allow terrorists to enter the United States. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has said it will carefully screen those accepted.

Two-thirds of those surveyed said they had seen the now-famous photo of the drowned Syrian toddler washed up on a Turkish beach. Of those, 56 percent said the image made them want to do more to help.

The crisis has divided Europe as well, where authorities have struggled to agree on how to settle the hundreds of thousands seeking refuge.

So far, German has taken in approximately 100,000 Syrian refugees while Sweden has accepted more than 50,000. Countries bordering Syria so far have shouldered the biggest burden. Turkey has taken in roughly 1.9 million refugees while Lebanon has accepted 1.1 million.

The United States accepted 70,000 refugees from around the globe in 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Roughly half of those were from two countries: Iraq and Burma.

Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and David Gregorio

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