Poll: Americans See Long Stay In Iraq

Quinn Gray, pictured here in a Facebook photo, went missing on the Friday before Labor Day weekend in 2009 from her $4 million home in Ponte Vedra, Fla. A ransom note was found on the front door. Facebook Photo

As scenes of looting and protests stream from Iraq, more Americans now sense resentment of the U.S. among the Iraqi people. But Americans' overall views on the U.S. role in Iraq are holding steady: the public believes the U.S. is in control of the situation and should stay as long as necessary - but wants the United Nations to take the lead in setting up the new government.

Though Americans still approve of the action that removed Saddam Hussein from power -- 78 percent do so -- support for democracy only goes so far: the public divides on whether the U.S. should permit the Iraqis to choose an Islamic fundamentalist regime if they want one.

Beyond Iraq, Americans are lukewarm on the policy of pre-emption, and would rather have the U.S. be liked around the globe -- including in the Arab world -- than simply project power.

THE SITUATION IN IRAQ
Americans generally believe that the Iraqis are more grateful to the U.S. for ousting Saddam than they are resentful of the U.S. military presence in Iraq now -- however, Americans' sense of Iraqi resentment is much higher now than it was two weeks ago. Today, 26 percent see mainly resentment, compared to just 8 percent two weeks ago. 53 percent believe the Iraqi people are feeling grateful to the U.S. today, while two weeks ago, 79 percent thought the Iraqis were mostly happy that the U.S. had ended Saddam's regime.

ARE THE IRAQIS GRATEFUL TO U.S. OR RESENTFUL OF U.S.?

Resentful of U.S. troops in Iraq
Now
26%
Two weeks ago
8%

Grateful/happy Saddam is gone
Now
53%
Two weeks ago
79%

Both
Now
14%
Two weeks ago
8%


And while images of looting and protests in Iraq have made headlines in recent days, Americans firmly believe the U.S. is in control of the situation in Iraq.

IS U.S. IN CONTROL OF SITUATION IN IRAQ?

Yes
71%
No
20%

The public has not changed its views on U.S. responsibilities in Iraq now. About half of Americans -- 52 percent - think the U.S. has a responsibility to set up the new Iraqi government, about the same number as two weeks ago, while a sizeable 42 percent think the U.S. does not have this duty.

DOES U.S. HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO SET UP NEW IRAQI GOVERNMENT?

Yes
52%
No
42%

Yet Americans generally do agree that the U.S. should not take the lead in setting up that new government -- that role belongs to the United Nations.

WHO SHOULD TAKE THE LEAD IN SETTING UP NEW IRAQI GOVERNMENT?

United States
29%
United Nations
62%

Americans are less sure about what should happen once the Iraqis choose their government, and seem most interested in making sure that government cooperates with the U.S., whatever form it takes. Almost half of Americans think that if the Iraqis should choose an Islamic fundamentalist government, the U.S. should accept the Iraqis' choice. 35 percent say the U.S. should take steps to prevent such a government.

IF IRAQIS CHOOSE ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALIST GOVERNMENT, U.S. SHOULD:

Accept the Iraqis' choice
48%
Prevent that type of government
35%

But when asked what the U.S. should do if that Islamic fundamentalist government might not cooperate with the United States, more Americans say the U.S. should then take steps to prevent such a government from taking power.

IF IRAQIS CHOOSE ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALIST GOVERNMENT THAT
DOES NOT COOPERATE WITH U.S., THE U.S. SHOULD:


Accept the Iraqis' choice
40%
Prevent that type of government
45%

Americans also think the U.S. should not pay the cost of rebuilding Iraq. 51 percent say the U.S. should not pay, and 44 percent think it should. People who support the war are slightly more likely to think the U.S. should not pay than are those who disapprove of the war.

SHOULD U.S. PAY THE COST OF REBUILDING IRAQ?

Yes
44%
No
51%

HOW LONG WILL THE U.S. STAY?
A majority of Americans thinks the U.S. is in for the long haul in Iraq, with a stay of over one year, while 40 percent think troops will be gone in under one year.

HOW LONG WILL U.S. TROOPS HAVE TO STAY IN IRAQ?

Under 1 year
40%
1 to 2 years
28%
More than 2 years
27%

Most -- 59 percent -- say that will be the right amount of time for the U.S. to stay. Just 8 percent say the amount of time they foresee the U.S. staying won't be long enough, while 28 percent say they think the U.S. will end up staying too long.

People who envision the U.S. staying longer than two years are the most likely to say the U.S.' commitment will be too long. People who approve of the war are also much more likely than those who do not approve to believe that the U.S. stay, however long it is, will constitute the proper amount of time.

Either way, Americans strongly feel that the U.S. should leave at a time of its choosing, and not when the Iraqi people might want the U.S. to leave.

WHEN SHOULD U.S. LEAVE IRAQ?

When the U.S. decides time is right
64%
When the Iraqis want the U.S. to leave
30%

THE U.S. ROLE IN THE MID-EAST AND THE WORLD
Despite the strong support for its military action in Iraq, Americans think it is more important that the U.S. be liked around the world for its policies than that it be respected for its military power. These feelings are quite similar when it comes to how the U.S. should be perceived in the Arab world specifically.

SHOULD U.S. BE LIKED FOR ITS POLICIES OR RESPECTED FOR ITS POWER?

Liked for policies
Around the world
55%
In the Arab world
50%

Respected for power
Around the world
30%
In the Arab world
36%


Though both Democrats and Republicans would prefer the U.S. be liked in the world for its policies, Democrats are more likely to say this.

Meanwhile, the doctrine of preemption gets mixed reviews beyond Iraq. Half the public says that after Iraq, the U.S. should not attack another country unless that country attacks the U.S. But just under half of Americans think the U.S. should be able to preemptively launch another attack, if the U.S. feels another country might strike first.

THE DOCTRINE OF PRE-EMPTION: SHOULD THE U.S. ATTACK FIRST?

Yes, if U.S. thinks it might be attacked
42%
No, not unless the U.S. is attacked first
50%

The vast majority of those who do not support the war also do not support the doctrine, but those who do support the war are split: just half of them also support this doctrine of pre-emption beyond Iraq.

Yet when trouble spots heat up in the world, a majority of Americans does think the U.S. has a responsibility to intervene to try to help.

U.S.: RESPONSIBILITY TO USE MILITARY IN WORLD'S TROUBLE SPOTS?

Yes, U.S. has responsibility
54%
No, U.S. does not have responsibility
34%

On the whole, Americans today fear that the U.S. is less respected in the world than it was one year ago, the successful war in Iraq apparently notwithstanding.

U.S. RESPECT IN THE WORLD COMPARED TO ONE YEAR AGO

U.S. is more respected
26%
Respected about the same
29%
U.S. is less respected today
41%

This echoes their sentiments of last October, when 42 percent of Americans who were asked to look back two years said the U.S. had become less respected, and just 19 percent said it had gained more respect. In October 1991, about six months after the first Gulf War, 34 percent said the U.S. had become less respected in the decade prior, and one-third thought it was respected more.

SUPPORT FOR THE WAR
Overall, 62 percent of Americans think the war with Iraq was worth the costs, including the loss of American life. This is down slightly from three weeks ago.

WAS REMOVING SADDAM WORTH THE COSTS?

Yes
Now
62%
Three weeks ago
68%

But despite the high levels of overall support for the action, only about half -- 53 percent -- believe the war will have been worth it if Hussein is never captured or proven killed. Americans' judgments are tied more to the hunt for Saddam than the hunt for weapons, as more people -- 60 percent -- say it will have been worth it even if weapons of mass destruction are never found.

WILL THE WAR BE WORTH IT IF...?
Yes, worth it

Saddam is never captured or proven killed?
53%
Weapons of mass destruction are never found?
60%

Americans still believe that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.

DOES IRAQ HAVE WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION?

Yes
Now
77%
Two weeks ago
81%

No
Now
15%
Two weeks ago
12%

And those who do think the weapons exist are confident that the U.S. will eventually turn them up: 70 percent of them say the U.S. will find the weapons.

Overall, Americans remain patient about the search. As the Pentagon and the President insist that the hunt for weapons of mass destruction will take time, 68 percent of Americans say they are not surprised that U.S. forces have not found any yet.

ARE YOU SURPRISED NO WEAPONS HAVE BEEN FOUND YET?

Yes, surprised
29%
No, not surprised
68%

Meanwhile, most still believe Saddam Hussein is alive.

SADDAM: DEAD OR ALIVE?

Probably dead
Now
28%
Two weeks ago
29%
3/20
4%

Probably alive
Now
59%
Two weeks ago
57%
3/20
84%


TERRORISM AND FUTURE THREATS
Although the fighting in Iraq is over and the nation's threat level has been lowered, just under one-third of Americans say they feel safer from the threat of terrorism than they did one year ago. Most feel the same or even less safe today.

SAFER FROM TERRORISM TODAY THAN ONE YEAR AGO?

Yes, safer
31%
About the same
51%
No, less safe
18%

Americans continue to believe that the U.S. and its allies are winning the war on terror -- a feeling which became the majority view for the first time after the Iraq war ended, and is holding steady now.

WHO IS WINNING THE WAR ON TERROR?

The U.S. and allies
Now
59%
Two weeks ago
62%
3/7-9
45%

Neither side
Now
27%
Two weeks ago
25%
3/7-9
34%

The terrorists
Now
10%
Two weeks ago
7%
3/7-9
14%


And with another potential threat, North Korea, perhaps looming on the horizon, Americans overwhelmingly say that situation calls for containing the threat, not military action.

NORTH KOREA IS...

A threat requiring military action now
12%
A threat that can be contained for now
71%
Not a threat
10%




This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 925 adults, interviewed by telephone April 26-27, 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.

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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