Poll: Iraq War Takes Toll On U.S.

Anti-War and Pro-War Demonstrators over a flag and map of Iraq AP / CBS

More than half of Americans today would prefer U.S. troops leave Iraq as soon as possible rather than have them stay in Iraq until that country is a stable democracy, which many do not think will happen. Asked what should happen right now, a third wants all troops to be removed immediately. Many Americans are concerned that Iraq is drawing resources needed in the U.S.

Half of Americans think the fighting in Iraq has been harder than they expected, and the personal impact of the war is also taking a toll. Almost two thirds say it has affected their community, and most of them say the impact has been negative. The war has had a disproportionate impact in the South, among lower-income Americans and African-Americans.

WHEN SHOULD U.S. TROOPS LEAVE?
52 percent think U.S. troops should leave Iraq as soon as possible even if Iraq is not stable -- the highest since this poll starting asking the question in June 2004. Earlier this year, opinion was reversed: in February 55 percent said U.S. troops should stay as long it takes to make sure Iraq is a stable democracy.

U.S. TROOPS IN IRAQ SHOULD…
Stay as long as it takes
Now
42%
2/2005
55%
6/2004
54%

Leave as soon as possible
Now
52%
2/2005
40%
6/2004
40%

Opinion is also divided as to whether Iraq will ever become a stable democracy. 47 percent expect that will happen, but most of them expect that to take longer than a year or two. 50 percent think Iraq will never become a stable democracy. These views are similar to last month.

STABLE DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ…
Will happen with a year or two
Now
4%
8/2005
6%
2/2005
9%

Will happen, but will take longer
Now
43%
8/2005
43%
2/2005
55%

Will never happen
Now
50%
8/2005
48%
2/2005
34%

63 percent of Democrats think democracy in Iraq will never occur, while Republicans are more optimistic. 67 percent of Republicans think Iraq will become a democracy; most of them expect that process to take longer than a year or two, however.

When asked what should happen with U.S. troops right now, 32 percent of Americans say all troops should be removed now and another 27 percent want troop levels lowered. One-third would either keep levels the same or increase them. These opinions are similar to what they have been since August.

U.S. TROOP LEVELS IN IRAQ SHOULD BE…
Increased 10%
Kept the same 26%
Decreased 27%
Remove all troops 32%

The Bush Administration often mentions that the war in Iraq is making the U.S. safer from terrorism, but a declining number of Americans believe that result is coming to pass. Today, 30 percent think the U.S. is safer from the threat of terrorism as a result of the war -- down from 50 percent in January 2004. 46 percent now think the war has had no effect on the terrorist threat against the U.S.

WAR IN IRAQ HAS MADE U.S.:
Safer from terrorism
Now
30%
3/2004
36%
1/2004
50%

Less safe from terrorism
Now
23%
3/2004
22%
1/2004
18%

Had no effect
Now
46%
3/2004
38%
1/2004
29%

There are partisan differences on this question: 57 percent of Republicans think the war has made the U.S. safer, but 55 percent of Democrats think it has made no difference, and another 32 percent think it has actually made the U.S. less safe.

48 percent of Americans do admit the fighting in Iraq has been harder than they'd thought it would be, but 44 percent say the fighting is about what they expected. Only 4 percent say the fighting in Iraq has been easier.

THE FIGHTING IN IRAQ HAS BEEN…
Harder than you expected 48%
Easier than you expected 4%
The same as you expected 44%

Moreover, the number of American military casualties in Iraq has been more than many expected: 45 percent say there have been more casualties than they thought there would be. Only 15 percent say there have fewer than they expected, and 18 percent say the number is about as they had expected.

Among those who stated an expectation about U.S. troop casualties, 33 percent say there have been between 1,000 and 1,999 casualties (as of today, there have been about 1,900 U.S. troop deaths in Iraq). 32 percent say there have been 2,000 or more casualties. Just 4 percent think there have been fewer than 1,000 American military casualties.

Whatever their feelings about how long troops ought to stay, most of the public is convinced that U.S. troops will be in Iraq for at least two more years, and 28 percent say it will be more than five years.
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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