Poll: Saddam Won't Keep His Word

President George Bush, Iraq, Saddam Hussein, 021015, GD. AP / CBS

As the U.N. gets ready to resume weapons inspections in Iraq, the American public remains highly skeptical that Saddam Hussein will keep his promise to allow full access to the inspectors, and expects war in Iraq to be inevitable, a CBS News/New York Times poll finds. Americans support military action in Iraq, but there is increasing concern that such action would lead to more terrorism.

Most Americans now also say the U.S. is not winning the war on terrorism, and there's less confidence that the U.S. will meet one of its stated goals in that conflict -- the capture or killing Osama bin Laden.

The poll also finds that slightly more Americans now feel that increased government wiretaps -- announced last week -- will violate Americans' constitutional rights.

The War Against Iraq?

Two-thirds favor the United States immediately bombing targets in Iraq if Saddam Hussein reneges on his promise. That support drops significantly if it would result in substantial U.S. casualties or a prolonged war.

Eight in ten Americans do not expect Saddam Hussein to keep his promise to allow U.N. weapon inspectors full access to look for weapons of mass destruction. Just 14% think he will.

WILL SADDAM HUSSEIN KEEP HIS PROMISE?
Yes
Now 14%
11/98 6

No
Now 80
11/98 88

Four years ago, when U.N. weapons inspectors returned to work in Baghdad, and the United States held back from launching air strikes, Americans were also skeptical. Then, less then one in ten believed Saddam Hussein would keep his promise. 88% said he would not.

If Saddam Hussein does renege again on his promise, two-thirds of Americans would support immediate military action against Iraq. 66% say if Baghdad does not allow U.N. inspectors full access, the United States should immediately use its Air Force to bomb targets in Iraq. About a quarter oppose immediate military action.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
IMMEDIATE MILITARY ACTION IF SADDAM HUSSEIN BREAKS HIS PROMISE:

 Now12/0111/98
Favor

66%

74%

80%


 Now12/0111/98
Oppose

26%

19%

14%

CBSNEWS Polls


While still strong, support for immediate military action is now somewhat lower than a year ago when the Bush Administration began its campaign against Iraq, and still lower than in 1998, after Saddam Hussein let weapons inspectors back in Baghdad following threats of imminent U.S. air strikes.

Partisan division on this issue seems to have widened during the past year. Last December, both Republicans and Democrats similarly supported immediate U.S. military action; now, there is a 31-point gap between the Republicans and the Democrats on this issue.

SUPPORT FOR IMMEDIATE MILITARY ACTION IF IRAQ FAILS TO COMPLY
Republicans
Now 84%
12.01 79
11/98 83

Democrats
Now 53%
12/01 71
11/98 78

Overall, almost seven in ten now expect the U.S. military to end up fighting against Iraq, and just under a quarter think the situation will be resolved peacefully. This is virtually unchanged since September. A majority, 55%, says that war is even more likely with the Republican victories in the midterm elections.

WILL U.S. END UP FIGHTING IN IRAQ?
Yes
Now 69%
10/02 68
9/02 74

No
Now 24%
10/02 25
9/02 19

General support for military action against Iraq remains consistent with previous polls, with seven in ten now approving of U.S. military action against Iraq to try and remove Saddam Hussein from power. And as has been the case since September, support for military action drops significantly when the public is asked to consider some of the potential costs, such as substantial U.S. military casualties, or the U.S. being involved in a war in Iraq for months or even years. In those cases, about half would still favor the U.S. taking military action against Iraq.


SUPPORT FOR MILITARY ACTION
Use military to remove Hussein
Favor 70%
Oppose 23

...but if substantial U.S. losses
Favor 51%
Oppose 40

...but if prolonged war
Favor 48%
Oppose 46

There continues to be partisan and gender differences on these questions, although women now seem somewhat more supportive of military action than they were a month ago.

THE NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES OF WAR
Americans are increasingly likely to express concerns about the possible negative consequences of a war with Iraq. Nearly two-thirds now say military action would increase the threat of terrorism against the U.S.; just one in ten feel military action would decrease the threat. The expectation that war with Iraq will increase terrorism has risen since September.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
IF U.S. ATTACKS IRAQ, TERROR THREAT WILL

 Now10/029/02
Increase

64%

59%

44%


 Now10/029/02
Decrease

9%

12%

18%


 Now10/029/02
No Difference

23%

26%

34%

CBSNEWS Polls


Many Americans also worry about the impact that a war against Iraq will have on the national economy. 42% think a war with Iraq would make the economy worse. 25% think it would improve the economy, and 26% say it would have no impact. These views have not changed in the past month.

WAR'S IMPACT ON THE ECONOMY
Make economy worse
All 42%
Republicans 49
Democrats 52

Make economy better
All 25%
Republicans 35
Democrats 17

Make no difference
All 26%
Republicans 29
Democrats 25

Democrats are almost twice as likely as Republicans to think a war with Iraq would hurt the economy. Similarly, women are more likely than men to think war would make the economy worse, by 49% to 35%.

THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST TERRORISM
As new evidence surfaces that Osama bin Laden is still alive and at large, Americans are skeptical about U.S. progress in the war against terrorism. And more than a year after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the threat of terrorism in the U.S. remains real to most Americans, and many do not think the Bush administration has a clear plan for dealing with it.

The public does not think the U.S. is winning the war against terrorism. But many see it as still unresolved; 43% say neither side is winning the war. 31% think the U.S. and its allies are winning, and 20% think the terrorists are winning. In the past month, a small but growing number of Americans think the terrorists are winning.
WHO IS WINNING THE WAR AGAINST TERRORISM?
Now
U.S. and allies 31%
Terrorists 20
Neither side 43

10/2002
U.S. and allies 34%
Terrorists 14
Neither side 47

In the absence of a definitive U.S. "win" in the war against terrorism, the threat of additional attacks persists. Three in four Americans - 77% - think it is very or somewhat likely that another terrorist attack will occur in the U.S. within the next few months. This number is up slightly from last month and the highest it's been since June.
LIKELIHOOD OF ANOTHER ATTACK
Now
Likely 77%
Not likely 21

10/2002
Likely 74%
Not likely 22

6/2002
Likely 81%
Not likely 16

While there is an uptick in concern overall, most Americans are not personally very concerned about a terrorist attack where they live. 69% are not very concerned, while just 30% are concerned about an attack in their area.

The Administration's response to the terrorist threat has not satisfied many Americans; the public remains divided as to whether the Bush Administration has a clear plan for dealing with it. In the campaign against terrorism, 48% think the Administration is just reacting to events as they occur, while 45% think the Administration has a clear plan.

DOES BUSH ADMINISTRATION HAVE A CLEAR PLAN FOR TERRORISM?
Yes, has clear plan 45%
No, just reacting to events 48

OSAMA BIN LADEN
Now, just half of the public - 53% - is very or somewhat confident that the U.S. government will capture or kill Osama bin Laden; only 15% say they are very confident. This is the lowest it has been since CBS News began asking the question in October 2001. Back then, 70% were confident bin Laden would be captured.

CONFIDENT BIN LADEN WILL BE CAPTURED
Now
Very/somewhat confident 53%
Not confident 45

9/2002
Very/somewhat confident 58
Not confident 37

10/2001
Very/somewhat confident 70
Not confident 27


Capturing bin Laden is seen as a crucial element to winning the war in Afghanistan. Americans remain of the opinion that if Osama bin Laden is NOT captured or killed, then the U.S. will NOT have won the war in Afghanistan. 62% believe this is the case, while 27% disagree.

The recent release of an audiotape reported to be the voice of Osama bin Laden's has more Americans now thinking he is probably alive. 88% believe bin Laden is alive, up from 77% in September.

ANTI-TERRORISM LAWS AND CIVIL LIBERTIES
With the passage of the Homeland Security bill, Americans are divided about the consequences of enacting anti-terrorism laws. While 44% are concerned that the government will enact new laws which would excessively restrict the average person's civil liberties, nearly as many - 40% - think the government will fail to enact strong anti-terrorism laws. Those views have changed little in the past year.

WHICH CONCERNS YOU MORE?
Govt. will restrict liberties 44%
Govt. won't enact strong anti-terrorism laws 40

Barely a week after Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that the federal government has increased powers to conduct wiretaps in the hunt for terrorists, the public has mixed views as to whether the government should have this authority. By a small margin, Americans think giving the government more authority to conduct wiretaps would violate Americans' constitutional rights. 43% think this authority should be granted in order to fight terrorism.

GOVERNMENT USE OF WIRETAPS
Now
Should have more authority 43%
Violates rights 50

12/2001
Should have more authority 48%
Violates rights 44

7/1996
Should have more authority 80%
Violates rights 12


In December 2001, Americans tended to side with giving the government more authority by a margin of 48% to 44%. Back in July 1996, shortly after the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta, 80% of Americans thought the government should have more authority to use wiretaps to fight terrorism.

One measure the public is clear on is the monitoring of the communications of ordinary Americans. 62% are not willing to allow government agencies to monitor the telephone calls and e-mails of ordinary Americans. 33%, however, are willing to have such communications monitored.

GOVERNMENT MONITOR COMMUNICATIONS
Now
Willing 33%
Not willing 62

2/2002
Willing 36%
Not willing 61

9/2001
Willing 45%
Not willing 51

These numbers have not changed much since early this year. However, back in September 2001, shortly after the terror attacks, 45% of Americans were willing to allow government agencies monitor telephone calls and e-mails.

Those under age 30, black, and those with at least some college education are the groups that strongly oppose this measure.




This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 996 adults, interviewed by telephone November 20-24, 2002. 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

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