Poll: Support For War Effort Grows

For the first time since the war in Iraq began, U.S. troops faced fierce resistance and took heavy casualties on Sunday – and meanwhile, Americans back home came to think they might be in for a long fight. Yet it is a fight they continue to support. A growing number of Americans now believe that Iraq was indeed a threat to the United States that required this military action; in fact, increasing numbers think the U.S. needs to use even more force than it is now.

Americans now see Iraq as more of a threat than they did before the war: 61% of Americans now say Iraq was a threat that required the U.S. to take action now. Before hostilities began, Americans were more closely split on that question: half said it was a threat that required military action, but 41 percent said it could be contained and another 5 percent said it was not a threat at all.

RE-ASSESSING THE THREAT: IRAQ WAS … ?

A Threat that required military action
Now
61%
3/7-9
50%

A threat that could have been contained:
Now
32%
3/7-9
41%

Not a threat to the U.S. at all:
Now
5%
3/7-9
5%


In the first days of battle, as coalition forces made rapid progress into Iraq, Americans expected a war of weeks. On Sunday, opinion changed, and a majority now says it will go on fore many months.

HOW LONG WILL WAR LAST?

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

Many months:
Sunday
53%
Thursday-Saturday
42%


Given the choice, most Americans still say the war will be quick and successful, not long and costly. But in the first days of battle, 62 percent of Americans said the war would be over quickly. On Sunday, that figure dropped to 53 percent.


THE WAR IN IRAQ WILL BE …

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

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


Faced with a possibly lengthening war, one in three Americans would take even stronger action against Iraq than the U.S. military is right now. Though a majority says the U.S. is using the right amount of force in Iraq, there was a jump among those interviewed on Sunday in the share that thought the U.S. should be using even more force. This sentiment is particularly strong among men: 40 percent of men now think the U.S. should use more force, while 27 percent of women do.

U.S.' USE OF FORCE IN IRAQ IS…

Right amount:
Sunday
53%
Saturday
58%

Too much:
Sunday
5%
Saturday
10%

Not enough:
Sunday
33%
Saturday
20%


However, Americans appear to foresee troops getting more bogged down than coming into harm. Most still believe the U.S. will take less than 1,000 casualties, unchanged from the days before.

EXPECTATIONS FOR U.S. CASUALTIES

Less than 1,000:
Sunday
67%
Thursday-Saturday
67%

1,000-5,000:
Sunday
19%
Thursday-Saturday
14%

More than that:
Sunday
5%
Thursday-Saturday
7%


While they are starting to wonder about the length of the war, Americans overwhelmingly believe it is going well. 88 percent say it is.

HOW IS WAR GOING FOR U.S.?

Going well
88%
Going badly
9%


SUPPORT FOR THE WAR

Americans still overwhelmingly approve of U.S. involvement in Iraq and the goal of removing Saddam Hussein from power – and that sentiment appears to have increased a bit on Sunday. 80 percent of those interviewed on Sunday said they approved of U.S. military action to remove Saddam Hussein from power there. Approval of action had remained stable at 76 percent for the first three days of fighting.


MILITARY ACTION AGAINST IRAQ

Approve:
Sunday
80%
Saturday
76%
Thursday-Friday
76%

Disapprove:
Sunday
17%
Saturday
22%
Thursday-Friday
20%


Americans also retain their belief that removing Saddam Hussein from power is worth the costs of the war – both the financial costs and the possible loss of life. Two out of three Americans continue to say that.

REMOVING SADDAM HUSSEIN WORTH THE COST?

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

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


More than two-thirds, 69 percent, also say they are proud of what the U.S. is doing in Iraq.

WATCHING THE WAR

Americans may have been paying more attention to news about the war on Sunday – or at least said their daily lives had been affected by the coverage. A majority of those interviewed on Sunday said they were staying up later or getting up earlier to follow the news about the war, something that was not the case on Saturday.

CHANGING SLEEP HABITS TO FOLLOW NEWS ABOUT WAR?

Yes:
Sunday
53%
Saturday
43%

No:
Sunday
46%
Saturday
56%


THE PRESIDENT'S APPROVAL RATINGS

As the battle rages in Iraq, Americans are rallying around President George W. Bush; his approval ratings continue to rise. This is even the case for the non-military aspect of his job, handling of the economy.

For the first time since July, a majority of Americans approve of the way George W. Bush is handling the economy. Three-quarters approve of his handling of the situation with Iraq.

THE PRESIDENT'S APPROVAL RATINGS

Overall:
Sunday
71%
Thursday-Saturday
67%
Last week
58%

Handling Iraq situation:
Sunday
75%
Thursday-Saturday
70%
Last week
55%

Handling of the economy:
Sunday
53%
Thursday-Saturday
48%
Last week
38%




This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 605 adults interviewed on March 23, 2003. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus four percentage points. Some questions (where indicated) are based on several days of interviewing. The full set of interviews was conducted among 1,956 adults from March 20-23; the sampling error is plus or minus two percentage points.

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

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