Poll: Americans See Longer War

U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division soldiers secure a field near Najaf, Iraq, Sunday, March 23, 2003. On the soldier's shoulder on the left, "zip-strips" to handcuff captured Iraqis. The U.S. -led coalition continues war missions Sunday, with American forces progressing 150 miles (240 kilometers) into Iraq, halfway to Baghdad. (AP Photo/John Moore) AP

As coalition casualties mount and U.S. and British forces face resistance in some cities in Iraq, Americans are increasingly likely to believe this war will be long and costly, and it will be many months before it ends. That is taking a toll on overall perceptions of how the war is going for the U.S., though most Americans still approve of military action.

HOW IS WAR GOING FOR U.S.?

Very well:
Monday
32%
Sunday
44%

Somewhat well:
Monday
52%
Sunday
44%

Not well:
Monday
13%
Sunday
9%


While more than four in five Americans think the war is going well for the United States, that optimism is guarded. In interviewing conducted on Monday, after American casualties and prisoners of war were shown on Iraqi television, the percentage who thought the war was going very well dropped from 44 percent on Sunday to 32 percent Monday. 52 percent think the war is going somewhat well, and 13 percent think it is going badly for the U.S.

After the first few days of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, views of the war's success also dropped, but optimism was still much more widespread. After a few days, 50 percent thought the 1991 war was going well, down from 61 percent as that war began.

The public's expectations about the length of the war have also changed in just one day, with more Americans expecting a drawn-out conflict. Now, 53 percent think the war against Iraq will be long and costly, up from 43 percent on Sunday and 32 percent in interviews conducted in the first few days of the war.

THE WAR IN IRAQ WILL BE ...

Quick and successful:
Monday
43%
Sunday
53%
Thursday-Saturday
62%

Long and costly:
Monday
53%
Sunday
43%
Thursday-Saturday
32%

Most of that change can be attributed to a change in women's views. Now, 36 percent of women expect a short war (down from 51 percent on Sunday), and 59 percent expect a long, costly war (up from 43 percent Sunday). Men's opinions changed little on this.

Asked how long they think the war will last, nearly two thirds now think it will last many months or longer, up from 53 percent on Sunday and 42 percent at the start of the war. Again, women's views changed more than men's.

HOW LONG WILL WAR LAST?

A few weeks:
Monday
34%
Sunday
42%
Thursday-Saturday
53%

Many months:
Monday
62%
Sunday
53%
Thursday-Saturday
42%


The costs of this war - both in lives and dollars - remain unclear to many Americans. Two-thirds say that the Bush Administration has not yet clearly explained expectations regarding the length of the war or its financial costs. Even more, three quarters, say the Administration has not explained what they expect U.S. loss of life to be.

HAS BUSH ADMINISTRATION CLEARLY EXPLAINED...?
(Monday)

Length of war:
Yes
33%
No
63%

Cost of war:
Yes
29%
No
61%

Number of soldier's lives lost:
Yes
17%
No
75%


SUPPORT FOR THE WAR

These unanswered questions have yet to have a real impact on support for the war, however; 75 percent of Americans approve of U.S. military action against Iraq. That percent has declined slightly since Sunday, when 80 percent said they approved of the U.S.' action.

MILITARY ACTION AGAINST IRAQ

Approve:
Monday
75%
Sunday
80%
Thursday-Saturday
76%

Disapprove:
Monday
23%
Sunday
17%
Thursday-Saturday
21%


Despite the possible costs of the war, which now may be more real to many Americans, two in three think removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq is worth it. 63 percent think that goal is worth the costs, not much changed since the start of the war last week.


REMOVING SADDAM HUSSEIN WORTH THE COST?

Yes:
Monday
63%
Sunday
66%
Saturday
66%
Thursday-Friday
62%

No:
Monday
29%
Sunday
28%
Saturday
27%
Thursday-Friday
30%


As coalition troops face resistance from Iraqi troops, increasing numbers of Americans think the U.S. should be even more aggressive in fighting this war. 45 percent of those interviewed on Monday think the U.S. is using the right amount of force there, but 36 percent now think it is not using enough, up from 33 percent Sunday and 20 percent Saturday.

U.S.' USE OF FORCE IN IRAQ IS...

Right amount:
Monday
45%
Sunday
53%
Saturday
58%

Too much:
Monday
7%
Sunday
5%
Saturday
10%

Not enough:
Monday
36%
Sunday
33%
Saturday
20%

42 percent of men think the U.S. is not using enough force, compared to 32% of women.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH

The President's overall approval rating is holding steady at 70 percent, but approval on his handling of the situation with Iraq may have slid a bit since Sunday's high. 71 percent now approve of the way he is handling Iraq, down from 75 percent on Sunday. The president is more vulnerable on his handling of the economy; half now approve of that.

THE PRESIDENT'S APPROVAL RATINGS

Overall:
Monday
70%
Sunday
71%
Thursday-Saturday
67%
3/15-16
58%

Handling Iraq situation:
Monday
71%
Sunday
75%
Thursday-Saturday
70%
3/15-16
55%

Handling of the economy:
Monday
51%
Sunday
53%
Thursday-Saturday
48%
3/15-16
38%


WATCHING THE WAR

Attention to the war has been higher for the past few days. On Sunday and Monday, just over half of Americans said they have gotten up earlier or stayed up later than usual so they could catch news about the war. On Saturday, less than half said their sleep patterns were affected.

CHANGED SCHEDULE TO FOLLOW NEWS OF WAR?

Yes:
Monday-Sunday
53%
Saturday
43%

No:
Monday-Sunday
47%
Saturday
56%




This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 427 adults interviewed on March 24, 2003. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus five percentage points. Some questions (where indicated) are based on multiple days' worth of interviews; those interviews were conducted among adults from March 20-24; the sampling error is plus or minus two percentage points.

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  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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