Poll: A Split On Confronting Terrorism

An overwhelming majority of Americans believe Islamic fundamentalism is a real and growing threat — and that terror groups like al Qaeda ultimately want to destroy the United States — but they are divided on what to do about it, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll.

Seventy-six percent of respondents say Islamic fundamentalism is a real and growing threat to the United States. Forty-seven percent think the U.S. will be safer if it confronts terrorist organizations and states in the Middle East, as President Bush advocates, while 45 percent say the country will be safer if it stays out of other nations' affairs in the region.

THE U.S. WILL BE SAFER FROM TERRORISM IF IT…

Confronts terror groups and states in the Mideast
47%
Stays out of other countries' affairs in Mideast
45%

While Mr. Bush and the Senate seek a compromise on new rules governing the treatment of terror suspects, most Americans, 63 percent, think the United States should generally follow international agreements on handling prisoners of war.

Most Americans, 56 percent, say torture is never justified, while 35 percent say sometimes it is.

IN TREATMENT OF POWs, THE U.S. SHOULD…

Follow international agreements
63%
Do what it thinks right, regardless of what other nations think
32%

Mr. Bush has had some success in convincing the public that the Iraq war is part of the broader war on terror. Forty-nine percent of Americans now feel the two conflicts are connected, up five points from a month ago.

But the president has failed to convince the nation on other matters. Fewer than half those polled think withdrawing from Iraq would increase the terror threat to the United States, as Mr. Bush and members of his administration have asserted, or that withdrawing now would mean admitting defeat.

The president has gained some ground on his handling of the war, with 36 now giving him a positive rating, up six points from last month and the highest rating he has received since January.

But overall assessments of the Iraq war are largely unchanged from last month, with six in 10 respondents continuing to say the war is going badly.

The president's overall approval rating remains steady at 37 percent, about where it's been all year.

BUSH'S JOB APPROVAL

Approve
37%
Disapprove
56%

Mr. Bush's numbers for his handling of the campaign against terrorism is unchanged — even in the wake of the five-year anniversary commemorations of the Sept. 11 attacks — though the issue remains his strongest, with 54 percent approval.

A separate CBS News/New York Times poll finds Congress gets even lower ratings than the president. Just 25 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, while 61 percent disapprove.

CONGRESS JOB APPROVAL

Approve
25%
Disapprove
61%

Americans even give their own representatives, who usually get positive ratings, the thumbs down. Just 42 percent of voters feel their own representative deserves re-election, while 47 percent say it's time for a change.

This disenchantment with Congress could bode well for the Democrats in their bid to regain control of the House.

Asked who they would support in the upcoming midterm elections, 50 percent of registered voters said they would support the Democratic candidate, while 35 percent would support the Republican.

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


This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1131 adults, interviewed by telephone September 15-19, 2006. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. Error for subgroups may be higher.
  • Joel Roberts

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