Saturday, May 26, 2007

NEW YORK TIMES: Opposition to Iraq War at All-Time High

May 24, 2007
U.S. Opposition to Iraq War at All-Time High, Poll Shows

Americans now view the war in Iraq more negatively than at any time since the war began, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Six in 10 Americans surveyed say the United States should have stayed out of Iraq, and more than three in four say that things are going badly there — including nearly half who say things are going very badly, the poll found.

Still, the majority of Americans support continuing to finance the war, as long as the Iraqi government meets specific goals.

President Bush’s approval ratings remain near the lowest point of his more than six years in office. Thirty percent of poll respondents approve of the job he’s doing overall, while 63 percent disapprove. Majorities of those polled disapprove of Mr. Bush’s handling of the situation in Iraq, of foreign policy, of immigration, of the economy and of the campaign against terrorism.

At a news conference in the Rose Garden this morning, President Bush seemed to acknowledge the erosion of public support for his administration’s policy in Iraq, even as he defended the policy. “Failure in Iraq affects the security of this country,” he said. “And it’s hard for some Americans to see that. I fully understand it. I see it clearly.”

Mr. Bush said he saw a need for “more of a national discussion” on “the consequences of failure in Iraq.”

“See, people have got to understand that if that government were to fall, the people would tend to divide into kind of sectarian enclaves much more so than today,” he said. “That would invite Iranian influence and would invite Al Qaeda influence, much more so than in Iraq today.”

Beyond the war issue, the poll found widespread concern over the nation’s overall direction. More Americans — 72 percent — now say that “generally, things in the country are seriously off on the wrong track” than at any time since the Times/CBS News poll began asking the question in 1983. The figure had been in the high 60’s earlier this year.

But the poll results made clear that the war continues to be the issue Americans are most worried about. Sixty-one percent of respondents now say that the United States should never have taken military action against Iraq, up from 51 percent in a CBS News poll in April and 58 percent in the same poll in January. Seventy-six percent say that things are going badly in the effort to bring stability and order to Iraq, including 47 percent who say they’re going very badly.

Mr. Bush warned today of still worse violence to come in Iraq in the months before Gen. David Petraeus is scheduled to report on progress there in September. “It could make August a tough month, because, you see, what they’re going to try to do is kill as many innocent people as they can to try to influence the debate here at home,” Mr. Bush said, referring to Al Qaeda and anti-American Iraqi militants. “Don’t you find that interesting -- I do -- that they recognize that the death of innocent people could shake our will?”

The nationwide telephone poll was conducted Friday through Wednesday with 1,125 adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

A large majority of the public — 76 percent, including a majority of Republicans — say that the additional American troops sent to Iraq this year by Mr. Bush have either had no impact or are making things worse there. Twenty percent think the troop increase is improving the situation in Iraq.

A majority of Americans continue to support a timetable for withdrawal. Sixty-three percent say the United States should set a date for withdrawing troops from Iraq sometime in 2008.

While the troops remain in Iraq, the overwhelming majority of Americans support continuing to finance the war, though most want to do so with conditions. Thirteen percent want Congress to block all spending on the war. The majority, 69 percent, including 62 percent of Republicans, say Congress should appropriate money for the war, but on the condition that the United States sets benchmarks for progress and that the Iraqi government meets those goals. Fifteen percent of all respondents want Congress to approve war spending without conditions.

President Bush acknowledged the majority view at the news conference today when he spoke about the war spending bill now pending in Congress.

“As it provides vital funds for our troops, this bill also reflects a consensus that the Iraqi government needs to show real progress in return for America’s continued support and sacrifice,” he said in his opening remarks. “The Iraqi Study Group recommended that we hold the Iraqi government to the series of benchmarks for improved security, political reconciliation and governance that the Iraqis have set for themselves. I agree. So does the Congress. And the bill reflects that recommendation.”

Even so, the poll found that Americans now have more faith in the Democrats than in the Republicans on the issue of the Iraq war. For the first time, more than half of those polled — 51 percent — said the Democratic party is more likely than the Republican party to make the right decisions about the war.

In general, more Americans now have a favorable view of the Democratic party (53 percent) than of the Republican party (38 percent). The Republican party has not had a majority positive rating in a New York Times/CBS News poll since December 2003.

As for Mr. Bush, 23 percent approve of his handling of the situation in Iraq, while 72 percent disapprove; 25 percent approve of his handling of foreign policy, while 66 percent disapprove; and 27 percent approve of his handling of immigration issues, while 60 percent disapprove.

On the economy, 38 percent approve of Mr. Bush’s handling of the issue, and on the campaign against terrorism, 40 percent approve, matching his career low on the issue.

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