In young children with small angle exotropia, making decisions for the individual patient whether to perform surgery or not, and choosing the optimal time for surgical intervention are quite difficult. We aimed to compare the long-term outcomes of small angle intermittent exotropia of 20 prism diopters (PD) or less after observation versus strabismus surgery. A retrospective study was performed on 164 patients aged 3 to 13 who underwent surgical intervention or observation with or without conservative management for intermittent exotropia of 14 to 20 PD. The minimum follow-up period was 2 years. The average follow-up period was 3.9 ± 2.2 years in the observation group and 4.5 ± 2.3 years in the surgery group. At the final examination, the mean angle of deviation at distance was 11.1 ± 8.9 PD in the observation group and 9.0 ± 7.5 PD in the surgery group, which was not significantly different (P = 0.121). Changes in sensory outcome and fusional control were not significantly different between both groups (P = 0.748 and P = 0.968). Subgroup analysis including patients with poor fusional control also showed similar results. By multivariate analysis, the type of surgery, unilateral recess-resect procedure, was the only predictive factor of good motor outcome in the surgery group. In conclusion, long-term surgical outcomes in small angle exotropia did not appear to be more satisfying than observation in terms of motor and sensory outcomes.