CBS Poll: Vets Favor Bush

GENERIC George Bush John Kerry Vietnam War CBS/AP

Veterans' evaluations of the war in Iraq are slightly more optimistic than those of the American public overall -- although even veterans question how well things are going for the U.S. in Iraq and whether the war is worth the costs, a CBS News poll finds.

And as both presidential candidates vie for the veterans vote in 2004, right now President Bush holds a clear lead among those who have served. Veterans are also more likely than other voters to approve of how the president is handling both Iraq and the overall war on terror.

Even though they are not generally upbeat about the how the war in Iraq is going for U.S., veterans are more positive than Americans overall: 47% think things are going well, and 51% think the war is going badly.

HOW IS WAR GOING FOR U.S.?
ALL
Well
37%
Badly
60%

VETERANS
Well
47%
Badly
51%

Most veterans think the results of the war in Iraq are not worth the loss of life and other costs of the war -- but they do so by a smaller margin than Americans overall. 40% think it was worth the costs, while 55% think it was not. By nearly two to one, Americans as a whole think the war was not worth the costs.

WAS IRAQ WAR WORTH COSTS?

ALL
Yes
33%
No
60%

VETERANS
Yes
40%
No
55%

But like Americans overall, veterans are less willing to call U.S. involvement in Iraq an outright mistake. 46% of veterans do so, and 51% think it was not a mistake.

WAS U.S. INVOLVEMENT IN IRAQ A MISTAKE?

ALL
Yes
50%
No
46%

VETERANS
Yes
46%
No
51%

In February 1991, veterans were more optimistic than the public overall in their evaluations of the 1991 Persian Gulf War -- although that war enjoyed much wider popular support. Then, 70% of veterans felt that war was worth the costs; 65% of the public agreed.

Veterans are divided over whether U.S. troops ought to remain in Iraq until it is stable, or be pulled out as soon as possible. Nearly half prefer the latter.

U.S. TROOPS SHOULD:

ALL
Stay as long as it takes
45%
Turn control over to Iraqis now
49%

VETERANS
Stay as long as it takes
47%
Turn control over to Iraqis now
49%

Veterans also doubt the Bush Administration's planning for the handover of power to Iraqis on June 30th. Just over one-fourth thinks the Administration has a clear plan for the handover of power in Iraq; 63% think it does not.

DOES BUSH ADMINISTRATION HAVE CLEAR PLAN FOR 6/30 HANDOVER?

ALL
Yes
24%
No
60%

VETERANS
Yes
26%
No
63%

Veterans do have a markedly different view of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal than Americans overall. By a wide margin, veterans think the responsibility for the abuse ought to go up the chain of command: 57% think people higher up should be held responsible, while 28% think only the soldiers involved should be. Americans as a whole are more closely divided.

WHO SHOULD BE HELD RESPONSIBLE?

ALL
Higher level military
44%
Only soldiers involved
45%

VETERANS
Higher level military
57%
Only soldiers involved
28%

Like the rest of the country, three quarters of veterans think the abuse was not justified, and that U.S. soldiers should be held to a higher standard of behavior.

WAS ABUSE JUSTIFIED?

ALL
Yes
12%
No
81%

VETERANS
Yes
15%
No
74%

But veterans are less skeptical than the public overall about the reaction of Pentagon officials to the abuse reports -- still, 42% of them think the Pentagon tried to cover up the stories of abuse.

PENTAGON'S REACTION TO ABUSE REPORTS

ALL
Tried to cover it up
51%
Tried to investigate quickly
39%

VETERANS
Tried to cover it up
42%
Tried to investigate quickly
48%

Veterans and the 2004 Vote

In the 2004 campaign, President Bush is touting his record as Commander-in-Chief in the war on terror, while decorated Vietnam veteran John Kerry has often stood with his "band of brothers" in his ads and appearances. So far, that battle for veterans' votes is going to Bush: the President leads by a wide margin among veterans nationwide, 54% to 40%.

VOTE CHOICE 2004: KERRY VS. BUSH
(Among registered voters)


ALL
Kerry
49%
Bush
41%

VETERANS
Kerry
40%
Bush
54%

Kerry's eventual choice of running mate has the potential to alter the race for the veterans vote. Some have speculated that Kerry might form a ticket with GOP Senator John McCain, who is also a Vietnam veteran (although McCain has said he has no interest.) A Kerry-McCain ticket runs even with a Bush-Cheney ticket among veterans, with each side garnering 48% of the veterans vote.

In the meantime, however, veterans give the President much higher marks than other Americans for his job performance in handling Iraq and the war on terror, as well as handling his job overall.

VETERANS AND BUSH JOB APPROVAL

ALL
Overall
41%
Handling Iraq
34%
Handling the economy
36%
Handling foreign policy
37%
Handling war on terror
51%


VETERANS
Overall
51%
Handling Iraq
47%
Handling the economy
38%
Handling foreign policy
47%
Handling war on terror
65%

Veterans are also more likely than voters as a whole to say George W. Bush shares their priorities and their moral values.

Veteran voters in this poll are about as likely to call themselves Republicans as other voters, and more likely to call themselves Independents.

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



This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1,113 adults, interviewed by telephone May 20-23, 2004, including 170 veterans. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample.

  • Joel Roberts

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