Poll: Americans Support War Effort

Max Motors - Website Max Motors - Website

Three out of four Americans approve of the U.S. military action against Iraq, and watching the coalition troops' early success has the American public increasingly optimistic about a quick victory.

Positive feelings about the war also have Americans feeling better about the overall direction of the country, but questions linger about the long-term course of the conflict.

Seventy-six percent now approve of the U.S. taking military action against Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power. This is up from 67 percent supporting action last week, where support had hovered for months.

SUPPORT FOR MILITARY ACTION AGAINST IRAQ

Approve:

Now
76%
Last week
67%

Disapprove:
Now
20%
Last week
29%


The rally took place on the first day of the war; there is no indication so far that support is increasing as the war continues.

What is increasing, however, as coalition forces move towards Baghdad, is the belief that the war will be short and successful.

Most Americans — 62 percent — now say they expect the war to be quick, while 33 percent still think it will be long and costly in spite of America's early successes. This is quite a reversal in Americans' outlook: In early March, half thought the war would be long and costly, and 43 percent thought it would likely be quick and successful.

THE WAR IN IRAQ WILL BE...

Quick and successful:
Now
62%
3/4-5/2003
43%

Long and costly:
Now
33%
3/4-5/03
50%

Those interviewed on Friday were more likely than those interviewed on Thursday to expect the war to be successful.

When asked to estimate a specific time frame for completion of the war, 53 percent of Americans say it will last a few weeks, while 42 percent think it will last many months. Those interviewed on Friday were more likely to say the war would take just a few weeks.

Americans expect the number of American casualties to be under 1,000, and less than one in ten think more than 5,000 American soldiers' lives will be lost in the war with Iraq. In 1991, at the start of the Persian Gulf War, Americans were much more pessimistic in their expectations about American loss of life. Then, just 33 percent expected under 1,000 casualties.

EXPECTATIONS FOR U.S. CASUALTIES

Less than 1,000:
Now
66%
1991
33%

1,000-5,000:
14%
1991
25%

More than that:
Now
7%
1991
21%

Increasing numbers of Americans say removing Saddam Hussein is worth the costs, including that loss of life. Last weekend, prior to the start of military action, 54 percent said removing the Iraqi leader from power was worth the costs, and now 62 percent say that.

IS REMOVING SADDAM HUSSEIN WORTH THE COSTS?

Yes:
Now
62%
3/15-16/2003
54%

No:
Now
30%
3/15-16/2003
40%

As the war goes on, however, there are increasing fears about the threat of terrorism. Sixty-seven percent, about the same percentage as during the start of the 1991 war, say they are personally very concerned about the possibility of a terrorist attack in the United States. And on this question, concern was greater on Friday than on Thursday.

PERSONALLY VERY CONCERNED ABOUT TERRORIST ATTACK IN U.S.?

Yes:
Now
67%
1991
66%

No:
Now
32%
1991
31%

Just as in 1991, more than eight in ten Americans say a terrorist attack on the United States in the near future is likely; more than a third say one is very likely.

CONCERNS FOR THE FUTURE

While Americans are making optimistic predictions about the future course of the war, they do not believe the Bush Administration is giving them much information with which to do that. Sixty-nine percent say the Bush Administration has not clearly explained how much money the war will cost; 63 percent do not think the Administration has put forward a clear estimate of how long the war will last; and nearly three-quarters say the Administration has not made clear how many American military personnel they estimate might be killed in the war.

HAS THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION EXPLAINED...?

How much money the war will cost:
Yes
18%
No
69%

How long the war will last:
Yes
29%
No
63%

How many American casualties:
Yes
17%
No
73%

Americans may have been awed by the start of the war, but they were hardly shocked that it finally came. On the first day of hostilities, most Americans said they had felt war was inevitable for months. Seventy-seven percent became convinced it would eventually happen as far back as a few weeks or a few months ago, or even earlier than that. Only 23 percent said they only became convinced it would happen once they actually saw the hostilities start.

WAR AND THE COURSE OF THE NATION

Americans' positive feelings about how the war is going may be spilling over into their assessments of the course of the nation. As the U.S. moved toward war recent weeks, and the economy continued to sag, a majority said the country was on the wrong track. Now, however, that has reversed, and a slight majority once again says the nation is headed in the right direction.

COUNTRY IS HEADED IN THE...

Right direction:
Now
53%
2/2003
35%
1/2002
52%

Wrong direction:
Now
41%
2/2003
56%
1/2002
35%

Americans' assessments of the economy have also gotten a large boost since the start of military action — perhaps due in part to the past week's stock market upsurge. Half of Americans say it is in good shape and half say it is in bad shape, but this is a far better assessment than Americans gave it just last weekend, when six in ten thought the economy was in bad shape and just 38 percent thought it was doing well.

The early efforts by U.S. forces in the Gulf have also inspired a sense of pride among Americans: 64 percent say they are proud of what the U.S. is doing in the Gulf, while 28 percent say they are not proud.

ANTI-WAR PROTESTS

Despite overall support for the war, Americans also believe those who disagree with the war have the right to protest it. Sixty-four percent of Americans think protest marchers have a right to express their views, while a quarter think these protesters will hurt the war effort. Majorities of both those who approve and those who disapprove of U.S. military action believe this.

ALLOW ANTI-WAR PROTEST MARCHES?

Yes:
Now
64%
1991
48%

No, they hurt war effort:
Now
27%
1991
38%


This was not the case at the start of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Then, less than half the public thought anti-war rallies should be allowed.

THE PRESIDENT

Americans have always rallied around the President when war begins, and approval ratings of George W. Bush have gone up accordingly, even for his handling of the economy, which has been his weak point.

Sixty-seven percent now approve of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as President, a figure up slightly since the start of the war, and up significantly since before his speech last week giving Saddam Hussein an ultimatum to leave Iraq in 48 hours or risk attack. But the approval rating is not up over the first couple of successful days of conflict. Sixty-nine percent approve of the way the President is handling the situation in Iraq.

The President's rating on his handling of the economy has also improved, though less than half — 48 percent — approve of how George W. Bush is managing this aspect of his job.

THE PRESIDENT'S APPROVAL RATINGS

Overall:
Now
67%
3/20
67%
3/17
64%
3/15-16
58%
2/24-25
54%

Handling Iraq situation:
Now
69%
3/20
70%
3/17
63%
3/15-16
55%
2/24-25
52%

Handling of the economy:
Now
48%
3/20
--
3/17
--
3/15-16
38%
2/24-25
40%

Mr. Bush's approval rating is not as high as his father's at the start of the Persian Gulf War, and the post-war improvement is not as dramatic. George H.W. Bush's approval rating rose 18 points from 66 percent to 84 percent at the start of those hostilities.



This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 835 adults, interviewed by telephone March 21-22, 2003. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. Sampling error for subgroups may be higher.

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

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.