Americans More Skeptical On WMD

WMD, Iraq Flag and map, the Capitol dome AP / CBS

More than four in ten Americans say the Bush Administration overestimated the number of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but despite recent scrutiny of the Administration's pre-war claims about those weapons, most Americans express confidence that the U.S. will eventually uncover those weapons, according to a new CBS News poll.

Most still say Iraq was a threat requiring immediate military action.

Finding those weapons does matter to most Americans. So does finding Saddam Hussein. Fifty-eight percent say it matters whether the U.S. finds weapons, and even more - nearly two-thirds - say it matters whether the U.S. is able to find Saddam Hussein.

Fourty-four percent of Americans say the Bush administration overestimated the extent of the Iraqis' weapons stores, up slightly from the 39% who believed that two weeks ago. Americans are less likely now than two weeks ago to say the Administration estimated correctly.

Of those who do suspect the administration overestimated question its motives - over two-thirds of them believe the administration did it because it was exaggerating to build war support.

But the growing doubt doesn't seem to extend to the intelligence community. Despite recent criticism of U.S. intelligence on prewar Iraq, fewer Americans today think the CIA and U.S. intelligence agencies overestimated the Iraqi weapons stash than thought so two weeks ago. Thirty-nine percent now say the intelligence agencies overestimated; two weeks ago 52 percent said so.

Americans continue to express confidence that the U.S. will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Roughly two-thirds of those polled say so now and said so two weeks ago.

The fact that the hunt for weapons has come up empty so far has not changed most Americans' belief that Iraq was a threat requiring immediate military action. A majority - 53% in this poll - continues to say it was such a threat. But that's down from 58 percent in early April.

And some 62 percent of Americans believe removing Saddam Hussein from power was worth the loss of American life and other costs of the war - a figure that has not changed much since the war.

On other matters, after days of increased violence between Israel and the Palestinians, Americans remain split almost down the middile over whether President Bush can do anything to bring peace to the Middle East.

And the President's job approval rating remains steady and high, with two-thirds of Americans approving of the job the President is doing.

The poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 841 adults interviewed by telephone June 11-12, 2003. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample.

For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.
  • Brian Dakss

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