CBS Poll: Optimism And Doubts Over Iraq

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Five years after the war in Iraq began, 43 percent of Americans surveyed by CBS News say the war is going at least somewhat well. But nearly six in ten Americans say the U.S. should have stayed out of the country in the first place.

More Americans than ever before - 42 percent - say the troop surge in Iraq has made things better. In June, just 17 percent surveyed said as much. Thirty-four percent of Americans say the surge has had no impact, while 13 percent say it has made things worse.

The percentage of Americans who say the war is going well is now ten points higher than it was in September of last year. But the 43 percent figure represents a decline of 29 percentage points since May of 2003, just after President George W. Bush announced the end of major combat operations in Iraq.

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Americans remain divided over Iraq by party - 71 percent of Republicans say the war is going well, while only 26 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of independents agree.

Thirty-six percent of Americans say the war in Iraq has made America safer from terrorism, while 24 percent say it has made America less safe. Thirty-eight percent say it has made no difference.

Nearly half of all Americans - 46 percent - want large numbers of U.S. troops to leave Iraq within the next year. Twenty-two percent are willing to have U.S. troops remain in the country for one to two years, and 28 percent are willing to have troops remain longer than that.

Fewer than one in three Americans approve of the way Mr. Bush is handling the war in Iraq. His 30 percent approval rating on the war is unchanged from last month and closely matches the president's overall approval rating of 29 percent.

Thirty-six percent of Americans think the U.S. did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, while 59 percent believe the U.S. should have stayed out. In March 2003, nearly seven in 10 Americans said the U.S. did the right thing.

Just 31 percent of Americans think the U.S. should have stayed to rebuild Iraq after Saddam Hussein was removed from power. Twenty-seven percent say the U.S. should have pulled out of Iraq after removing Saddam, while 41 percent say the U.S. should have never gotten involved in the first place.

Twenty-eight percent of Americans believe Saddam was personally involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. That figure is down significantly since the spring of 2003, when more than half of those surveyed said the former Iraqi leader was involved in the attacks.

Majorities of Americans say they are confident in any of the three leading presidential candidates - Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain - to make the right decisions about Iraq.

Voters who approve of the job Mr. Bush is doing in Iraq and who think the U.S. action in Iraq was right express confidence in McCain, while those who disapprove of the job Bush is doing in Iraq and who think the U.S. should have stayed out express confidence in Clinton and Obama.
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This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,067 adults nationwide interviewed by telephone March 15-18, 2008. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher. A small oversample of African Americans was also conducted for this poll, for a total of 122 interviews among this group. The results were then weighted in proportion to the racial composition of the adult population in the U.S. Census. The margin of error for African Americans is plus or minus nine percentage points.
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