Nearly eight in 10 respondents said President Barack Obama should receive congressional approval before using any force.
NBC News said the public is more supportive of an intervention if the scope of the mission is limited to cruise missiles launched from naval ships, 50 percent versus 44 percent.
NBC conducted the two-day poll as the Obama administration considers intervening in Syria for the regime's alleged use of chemical weapons.
The Obama administration late Thursday talked to congressional leaders about military options. Earlier in the day, the British Parliament rejected a motion that urged an international response to the use of chemical weapons.
The NBC poll also indicates that Obama's overall job-approval rating has dropped a point since last month and is down to 44 percent, tied for his lowest mark in past surveys.
The poll was conducted Wednesday and Thursday, and consisted of telephone interviews with 700 adults. The margin of error was 3.7 percentage points.