Poll: Part 2

WAS U.S. ACTION RIGHT THING, OR SHOULD U.S. HAVE STAYED OUT?

Right thing
Now
47%
Last month
58%
3/2003
69%

Stayed out
Now
46%
Last month
37%
3/2003
25%

The situation has moved Iraq near the top of the list of issues that voters want the candidates to discuss: 21 percent now say it is the issue they most want to hear about from Kerry and Bush, up from 11 percent last month, and just behind the economy and jobs at 25 percent.

The belief that pre-war Iraq required quick military action has also reached its lowest levels in this poll. Just 32 percent now say that Iraq had posed a threat requiring immediate action -- down from 58 percent who said this in April 2003. Today, though only 17 percent believe Iraq was never any threat at all, this sentiment has risen in recent weeks and is up from 8 percent one year ago.

IRAQ WAS…?

A threat requiring immediate action
Now
32%
Last month
42%
4/2003
58%

A threat that could be contained
Now
48%
Last month
45%
4/2003
32%

Not a threat at all
Now
17%
Last month
12%
4/2003
8%

Americans are now evenly divided on whether to call the war a mistake. 48 percent say it was a mistake to get involved in Iraq, and 46 percent say it was not a mistake. This, too, is a large shift from one year ago: in April of 2003 only 24 percent of Americans thought getting involved in Iraq was a mistake. Americans' current assessment of whether Iraq was a mistake is similar to views of the Vietnam conflict as measured in a Gallup Poll of April 1968, when 48 percent of Americans then said that getting involved in Vietnam was a mistake.

WAS GETTING INVOLVED IN IRAQ A MISTAKE?

Yes
Now
48%
4/2003
24%
4/1968 - Vietnam Gallup Poll
48%

No
Now
46%
4/2003
70%
4/1968 - Vietnam Gallup Poll
40%

Americans are divided over whether the war in Iraq is part of the broader war on terror -- another sharp contrast from one year ago. 45 percent now say Iraq is not part of that broader conflict. One year ago, only 30 percent said this, and most viewed Iraq as a major part of the war on terror.

IS WAR IN IRAQ PART OF WAR ON TERROR?

Yes, major part
Now
38%
3/2004
34%
11/2003
46%
4/2003
53%

Yes, minor part
Now
13%
3/2004
16%
11/2003
14%
4/2003
13%

No
Now
45%
3/2004
44%
11/2003
35%
4/2003
30%

Partisanship continues to shape opinions about whether going to war was the right thing to do: eight in ten Republicans say the war was the right thing to do, but just one-quarter of Democrats agree. And in a sign of how the war could impact a close election in the fall, independent voters are evenly split on the matter.

Americans overwhelmingly believe the war has made the United States' image in the Arab world worse -- 71 percent say so. One year ago, one-third thought the war had improved that image; today only 10 percent think that.

IRAQ WAR HAS MADE U.S. IMAGE IN ARAB WORLD...?

Better
Now
10%
4/2003
34%

Worse
Now
71%
4/2003
44%

Stayed the same
Now
10%
4/2003
13%

Asked to name the U.S.' most important accomplishment in Iraq, Americans overwhelmingly point to one thing that was accomplished a year ago: the ousting of Saddam Hussein. 57 percent volunteer this accomplishment and mention Saddam by name, while 5 percent cite fighting terrorism. 7 percent insist the U.S. has accomplished nothing at all.

More than a third of Americans still believe that Saddam was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks on America, though the figure is down from its high of 53 percent one year ago. Slightly more than half say there are still unfound weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

In all, just 33 percent of Americans believe the war in Iraq has been worth its costs, and 58 percent say it was not. This is little changed from earlier this month; last summer, Americans were divided on the question.

WAS IRAQ WAR WORTH THE COSTS?

Yes
All
33%
Men
40%
Women
27%

No
All
58%
Men
53%
Women
63%

Women are especially likely to say the war was not worth the costs. Men say it was not worth it by a margin of 53 percent to 40 percent, while women say it was not by a gaping 63 percent to 27 percent margin. Americans divide sharply along partisan lines on this question, too. Most Republicans -- 6 in 10 -- say the war was worth it, but eight in ten Democrats say it was not.

U.S. TROOPS AND STABILIZING IRAQ
60 percent of Americans describe U.S. efforts in Iraq as going badly, and 38 percent say things are going at least somewhat well for the U.S. That figure was 65 percent just after Saddam Hussein was captured and 72 percent last May.

U.S. EFFORTS TO STABILIZE IRAQ ARE GOING…

Very well
Now
4%
5/2003
11%

Somewhat well
Now
34%
5/2003
61%

Somewhat badly
Now
31%
5/2003
19%

Very badly
Now
29%
5/2003
5%

Americans are becoming less hopeful that the U.S. will ultimately be able to achieve its goal of establishing a democratic government in Iraq. 50 percent say that the U.S. will succeed, but that is down from 58 percent earlier this month. Only 10 percent describe this as very likely to happen. 46 percent say it will not.

WILL U.S. SUCCEED IN BRINGING DEMOCRACY TO IRAQ?

Very likely
Now
10%
Three weeks ago
14%

Somewhat likely
Now
40%
Three weeks ago
44%

Not very likely
Now
31%
Three weeks ago
27%

Not at all likely
Now
15%
Three weeks ago
13%

Americans are evenly divided on how long U.S. troops should stay in Iraq. 46% say the troops should remain in Iraq until it is stable, down from 56% in December. 46% think U.S. troops should leave as soon as possible, even if Iraq is not totally stable when they do.


HOW LONG SHOULD U.S. TROOPS STAY?

Until Iraq is stable
Now
46%
12/2003
56%

Should leave as soon as possible
Now
46%
12/2003
35%

Almost two-thirds of Republicans say the U.S. should stay until Iraq is stable; nearly as many Democrats want control turned over to the Iraqis soon, whether or not the country is stable.

However, Americans remain convinced that U.S. troops will be in Iraq for at least two years, and one-quarter say it will be more than five years.

HOW MUCH LONGER WILL U.S. TROOPS HAVE TO STAY IN IRAQ?
Less than a year
8%
One to two years
27%
Two to five years
33%
More than five years
25%

Americans see the Iraqi people as more resentful of the U.S. presence in Iraq than grateful for the ousting of Saddam, another change from previous polls. Ever since the war began, Americans had thought most Iraqis would be grateful for the U.S. presence.

THE IRAQI PEOPLE ARE…

Grateful to U.S.
Now
38%
12/2003
48%
4/2003
53%


Resentful of U.S.
Now
48%
12/2003
30%
4/2003
26%

Both
Now
9%
12/2003
13%
4/2003
14%

In general, Americans have been consistent in rejecting the principal of U.S. intervention to change a dictatorship to a democracy when it can. 62 percent say the U.S. should generally stay out of other nations' affairs, while 22 percent say the U.S. should take on that task of changing dictatorships to democracies.

THE PRESIDENT AND THE WAR
The President's approval ratings for handling the Iraq situation have slipped, and this poll also finds most Americans doubtful that the Administration has a clear plan for Iraq's reconstruction, or for the handover of power on June 30th.

DOES THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION HAVE A PLAN FOR…?

Rebuilding Iraq
Yes
32%
No
58%

Transferring power to Iraqis
Yes
31%
No
57%

Americans suspect that the level of resistance U.S. troops face in Iraq has surprised the Bush Administration. Two-thirds -- 67 percent -- say fighting in Iraq has been harder than the Bush Administration expected. Only 25 percent say the Administration correctly gauged the resistance. One year ago, before the President signaled the end of major combat, nearly half said the Administration had gauged the intensity of the fighting correctly.

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION: FIGHTING IN IRAQ HAS BEEN…

Harder than they expected
Now
67%
4/2003
39%

Easier than they expected
Now
2%
4/2003
4%

The same as they expected
Now
25%
4/2003
47%

Americans admit that they, too, were surprised by the difficulties in Iraq, but they expected a rougher road. 44 percent say the fighting in Iraq has been harder than they'd thought it would be, while half -- 49 percent -- claim the results are about what they had expected.

When the war began, Americans overwhelmingly said the Bush Administration had tried hard enough to reach a diplomatic solution before committing U.S. troops to combat. Today, Americans have reversed their view: most now say the Administration was too quick to get U.S. forces involved in Iraq.

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION…

Tried hard enough to reach a diplomatic solution in Iraq
Now
34%
3/2003
67%

Was too quick to involve military
Now
61%
3/2003
31%

And Americans largely suspect that the decision to go to war in Iraq came sooner than the Administration's assertion that it was made just before the war began, in March 2003. Today, 68 percent believe that the decision to strike Iraq was made some time before that date.

WHEN DID BUSH ADMINISTRATION DECIDE TO GO WAR IN IRAQ?
In March 2003
23%
Before that
68%

There are also doubts about the President's truthfulness on the subject of Iraq. Most Americans -- 56 percent -- think the President is mostly telling the truth but still hiding something when he speaks to them about Iraq. Another 20 percent think he is telling the entire truth, the same number as think he is mostly lying.

IN HIS STATEMENTS ABOUT IRAQ, BUSH IS…
Telling entire truth
20%
Mostly telling truth, but hiding something
56%
Mostly lying
20%

And Americans are increasingly skeptical about the President's assertion that the war will make the U.S. safer: 41 percent say the war has actually increased the terror threat against the United States and just 18 percent say it had lowered it. This is up significantly from last fall, when just one-quarter thought the war had raised the threat.

IRAQ WAR HAS MADE TERROR THREAT TO U.S.…?

Increase
Now
41%
10/2003
26%
4/2003
34%

Decrease
Now
18%
10/2003
21%
4/2003
19%

Stayed the same
Now
39%
10/2003
51%
4/2003
45%

THE PRESIDENT'S JOB PERFORMANCE
George W. Bush's overall job approval is now the lowest of his presidency: only 46 percent of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing as President; 47 percent disapprove. His approval rating has dropped five points from early March, before the start of intense new fighting in Iraq. Immediately after the fall of Baghdad a year ago, 67 percent of Americans approved of the job Bush was doing as president.

BUSH'S JOB RATING

Approve
Now
46%
3/2004
51%
4/2003
67%

Disapprove
Now
47%
3/2004
42%
4/2003
24%

Since early March, Bush has lost support among some key groups: Independents, moderates and women. These groups were more likely to approve of the way Bush was handling his job in early March, but they now disapprove.

Bush's ratings on handling Iraq and foreign policy have also slipped since last month and are at all-time lows. Only 41 percent of Americans now approve of the President's handling of the situation in Iraq (a drop of 8 points since March) while 52 percent disapprove. After the capture of Saddam Hussein last December, 57 percent approved of Bush's handling of Iraq, and a year ago, shortly after the President declared major combat in Iraq over, 74 percent of Americans approved of the job Bush was doing in Iraq.

BUSH'S HANDLING OF IRAQ

Approve
Now
41%
3/2004
49%
12/2003
57%
5/2003
74%

Disapprove
Now
52%
3/2004
43%
12/2003
36%
5/2003
21%

Similarly, just 40 percent of Americans approve of Bush's handling of foreign policy -- also the lowest rating of his term; 51 percent disapprove.

BUSH'S HANDLING OF FOREIGN POLICY

Approve
Now
40%
3/2004
45%
12/2003
54%

Disapprove
Now
51%
3/2004
45%
12/2003
36%

While the intense fighting in Iraq may have hurt Bush's ratings on Iraq and foreign policy, his approval rating on handling terrorism remains high and has even improved since earlier this month. 60 percent of Americans approve of his handling of the campaign against terrorism, up from 56 percent a few weeks ago.

BUSH'S HANDLING OF THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST TERRORISM

Approve
Now
60%
4/2004
56%

Disapprove
Now
32%
4/2004
38%

Bush's approval rating on the economy has remained steady since last month. 39 percent now approve of Bush's handling of the economy, compared with 37 percent in late March. This rating may be tied to Americans' somewhat more positive view of the nation's economy. 55 percent now say the economy is good, while 45 percent say it is bad.

THE ECONOMY IS

Good
Now
55%
3/2003
50%
12/2003
59%
4/2003
44%

Bad
Now
45%
3/2003
48%
12/2003
40%
4/2003
54%

The evaluation of the economy is one of the few measures to have shown improvement since last April, but it is a less positive assessment than it was immediately after the capture of Saddam last December. As for the economy's future, 30 percent of Americans say the economy is getting better, 26 percent say it is getting worse, while 44 percent say it is staying the same.

Even though Americans may be more optimistic about the economy, the public continues to think the country is headed in the wrong direction. More than half -- 55 percent -- think things in this country have gotten off on the wrong track, while 36 percent say things are headed in the right direction. A year ago, Americans said the country was headed in the right direction.

DIRECTION OF THE COUNTRY

Right direction
Now
36%
1/2004
42%
4/2003
56%

Wrong track
Now
55%
1/2004
53%
4/2003
36%

While majorities of nearly all demographic groups believe things in the U.S. have gotten off on the wrong track, there are partisan differences. Seven in 10 Republicans say the country is headed in the right direction, but nearly eight in 10 Democrats says things have gotten off on the wrong track.

THE ADMINISTRATION'S TERRORISM POLICIES
The public is less convinced today than it was that the overall policies of the Bush administration have made the U.S. safer from terrorism. Fewer than half -- 49 percent -- now says the policies of the Bush administration have made the U.S. safer from terrorism, down from 62 percent in early March. A quarter say the Administration's policies have made the U.S. less safe from terrorism, while 22 percent say they have had no effect.

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S POLICIES HAVE MADE THE U.S…?

More safe from terrorism
Now
49%
Late March 2004
53%
Early March 2004
62%

Less safe from terrorism
Now 25%
Late March 2004
20%
Early March 2004
17%

Made no difference
Now 21%
Late March 2004
22%
Early March 2004
17%

49 percent of Americans believe terrorism is something a president can do a lot about. 45 percent think terrorism is beyond a president's control.

Many Bush Administration officials have testified before the 9/11 Commission, but Americans continue to believe the Administration may not be telling the entire truth about what it knew prior to September 11th regarding possible terror attacks against the U.S. 56 percent of Americans say the Administration is hiding something about what they knew prior to September 11, 24 percent say they are telling the entire truth, while 16 percent say they are mostly lying.

A large majority also continues to believe that the Bush administration was not focused enough on the threat of terrorism prior to September 11. Three in four Americans say the Bush administration was not paying enough attention to terrorism. Almost as many -- 73 percent -- say the Clinton administration was not paying enough attention to the threat of terror either.

PAYING ENOUGH ATTENTION TO TERROR THREAT BEFORE 9/11?

Bush Administration
Yes
18%
No
75%

Clinton Administration
Yes
18%
No
73%

49 percent of Americans say the Bush administration has struck the right balance between focusing on Iraq and al Qaeda, while 43% say the Administration is focusing too much on Iraq.

To help prevent future terrorist attacks, Congress passed the USA Patriot Act in October 2001. The act expanded the wiretapping authority of U.S. intelligence agencies and strengthened penalties for those aiding terrorists. 39 percent of Americans have heard or read about the USA Patriot Act (just 12 percent have read a lot about it). More -- 58 percent -- have heard little or nothing about it. The USA Patriot Act will expire next year and President Bush is urging Congress to make the current act's provisions permanent in addition to including new provisions.

Among those who have heard or read about the Patriot Act, 52 percent say it is a necessary tool that helps the government find terrorists. But four in 10 say it goes too far and is a threat to civil liberties. There are partisan differences on this question. Republicans say the Patriot Act is a necessary tool for fighting terror, while Democrats think it threatens civil liberties.

THE USA PATRIOT ACT IS A …
(Among those who read a lot or some about the USA Patriot Act)
Necessary tool
52%
Threat to civil liberties
42%

CHENEY AND POWELL
Voters continue to have a positive view of Secretary of State Colin Powell, but they now view Vice President Dick Cheney negatively. 31 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Cheney -- up 7 points since early last month and the highest since the CBS News/New York Times Poll started asking about him. 27 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Cheney. Still, the Vice President remains unknown to 41 percent of voters, though that number has been declining in recent polls.

VIEWS OF DICK CHENEY
(Registered voters)

Favorable
Now
27%
3/2004
32%
1/2004
22%

Unfavorable
Now
31%
3/2004
24%
1/2004
26%

Undecided/Unknown
Now
41%
3/2004
43%
1/2004
56%

Opinions of Secretary of State Colin Powell are very positive. 67 percent of registered voters have a favorable view of him, while only 8 percent view him unfavorably.

VIEWS OF COLIN POWELL
(Registered voters)

Favorable
Now
67%
4/2002
60%

Unfavorable
Now
8%
4/2002
4%

Undecided/Unknown
Now
23%
4/2002
35%

Click here for Part 3 of the poll.
  • Roman Foxman

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