Poll: Americans Back Ultimatum

Saddam Hussein, George W. Bush, USA, Iraq, War, Flag, American CBS

President Bush's address to the nation may have calmed some fears about an imminent war with Iraq: Americans support the President's ultimatum to Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq within 48 hours, but less than one in four think there is still any chance to avoid war.

After the President's Monday night speech, CBS re-interviewed 483 adults who were first interviewed on Saturday and Sunday, before the United States withdrew a United Nations resolution that would have specifically authorized military action. Over the weekend, 69% of this sample approved of military action against Iraq. On Monday night, overall support had not changed.

APPROVAL OF U.S. MILITARY ACTION AGAINST IRAQ

Now
69%
Last Week
69%

Some individuals did change. Nearly one in ten of those who approved of military action on the weekend now disapprove, citing the lack of a U.N. vote before. 17% of those who disapproved on the weekend now approve, saying they agree with the President that diplomacy has been tried long enough, and that war may be inevitable.

On two key points, the President has broad public support. 72% agree that he should have given the 48-hour ultimatum to Saddam Hussein, and not begun military action without it.

SHOULD BUSH HAVE GIVEN SADDAM HUSSEIN 48-HOUR ULTIMATUM?

Yes
72%
No
17%

Most Americans also are willing to take military action without a specific United Nations approval of the use of force against Iraq. Less than a third believe the President should have waited for United Nations approval.

SHOULD BUSH HAVE WAITED FOR SPECIFIC U.N. APPROVAL?

Yes
32%
No
65%

Those who watched or listened to the President's address (two-thirds of the entire sample) are much more likely to express agreement with the President on this point. By 75% to 22%, they think the U.S. should NOT have waited for specific U.N. authorization. Those who did not see the speech were divided. 51% of them say the U.S. should have waited for the U.N., while 48% think it should not have.

THE COSTS OF A WAR

Six in ten respondents in this poll say that the costs of a war with Iraq – loss of life as well as other costs – would be worth it to remove Saddam Hussein from office – not much different from what these same people said over the weekend. But it does appear that Americans may see those costs as lower now than they have in the past.

When asked if a war with Iraq if more likely to be quick and successful or long and costly, 57% say it will be quick. Earlier, this month, more expected it to be a long involvement.


WAR WITH IRAQ WILL BE ...

Quick And Successful:
Now
57%
Two Weeks Ago
43%

Long and Costly
Now
39%
Last Week
50%

One thing that has not changed, despite the President's effort to address it, is the concern that a war with Iraq will lead to an increased likelihood of terrorist action against the U.S. Most say that the war with Iraq is more likely to lead to an increased threat.

IMPACT OF WAR WITH IRAQ ON TERRORIST THREAT IN U.S.

Increase Threat
53%
Decrease Threat
11%
No Change
34%

Relief is clearly because the standoff is over, not that there is any hope to avert war. More than three quarters say the U.S. will certainly take military action now.

IS THERE STILL A CHANCE FOR PEACEFUL RESOLUTION?

Yes
22%
No
76%


BUSH'S JOB RATING

The President's approval ratings have shown an increase just in the last few days, as the public may be continuing its rally in support of a decision they believe has already been made. Among those interviewed both over the weekend and on Monday, approval of the President's overall job has risen five points, while approval of his handling of the situation with Iraq has risen ten points.

RESPONDENTS' JOB RATING OF PRESIDENT BUSH

Approve
Now
64%
Last Week
59%

RESPONDENTS' RATING OF BUSH HANDLING OF IRAQ
Approve
Now
63%
Last Week
53%

One other presidential evaluation also may have improved with the speech and Monday's events. Two-thirds of Americans now think the Administration has tried hard enough to achieve a diplomatic solution to the Iraq situation. In earlier polls, with a slightly different question, barely half said that the Administration had tried enough diplomacy.




This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 483 adults, interviewed by telephone after President Bush's address to the nation on March 17, 2003. They had first been interviewed March 15-16, 2003. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus five percentage points for results based on the entire sample. The sampling error will be higher on results based on subgroups, and it will be significantly lower when measuring individual change.

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

  • John Esterbrook

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