Poll: U.S. Intent On War

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

Most Americans are convinced that the Bush Administration has already made its mind up to take military action against Iraq. And while most Americans continue to support such action in principle, they believe the Administration should pay attention to the opinions of others – including the United Nations, U.S. allies, the American people, and even anti-war protestors.

As debate over Iraq continues, Americans think President George W. Bush's image abroad and U.S. relations with other countries have deteriorated.

Americans are divided on the urgency of the Iraqi threat. Although the overwhelming majority does see Iraq as a threat, nearly half say it is one that can be contained for now, while 44% say it is a threat requiring immediate military action. 5% don't see it as a threat at all.

IRAQ'S DEVELOPMENT OF WEAPONS IS…



A threat requiring military action now
44%
A threat that can be contained for now
47%
Not a threat
%5

THE ADMINISTRATION'S POLICY

Most Americans are skeptical that the Administration is seriously considering any option other than war. Two-thirds of Americans think the Bush Administration has already made up its mind to take military action against Iraq, and just 31% say the Administration is considering all the possible options. More than two thirds of both Democrats and Independents say so, as do 47% of Republicans.

WITH RESPECT TO IRAQ, THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION…

Has already made up its mind to take military action
65%
Is considering all possible options
31%

The public is divided on whether the Administration is trying hard enough to find diplomatic solutions on Iraq. 49% think the Bush Administration is too quick to get American military forces involved in Iraq, while 46% say it tries hard enough to reach diplomatic solutions. These views have not changed since earlier this month.

TAKING MILITARY ACTION: WHO SHOULD BE CONSULTED?

Two-thirds of the public approves of using military force to remove Saddam Hussein. This basic sentiment has held steady throughout the standoff.

U.S. MILITARY ACTION AGAINST IRAQ

Approve
66%
Disapprove
29%

But while Americans support the idea of ousting Saddam Hussein with military force, nearly two out of three want formal U.N. support for action to come first.

SHOULD U.S. STRIKE NOW WITHOUT U.N. APPROVAL?

Yes, act now:

Now
31%
2 weeks ago
38%
3 weeks ago
31%

No, wait for U.N.:

Now
64%
2 weeks ago
56%
3 weeks ago
63%

Two weeks ago, as the public digested the details of Colin Powell's presentation to the U.N., the number wanting to wait for U.N. approval dipped slightly, to 56%. Now that number has returned to its early-February level.

U.N. approval, in addition to its broad appeal among Americans, would apparently also be persuasive even to those who generally disapprove of employing force against Iraq. Of those who currently disapprove, half say they would change their view if the U.N. passed a resolution authorizing military action.

Besides formal United Nations approval for military action, Americans also want U.S. allies on board with any action. The percentage willing to move ahead without the allies has gone up slightly in the last few weeks.

SHOULD U.S. TAKE ACTION WITHOUT ALLIES' BACKING?

Wait for allies:

Now
59%
Two weeks ago
63%
10/02
63%

Take action without allies:

Now
37%
Two weeks ago
32%
10/02
28%

This CBS News Poll asked Americans whether they would support action if Great Britain joins the United States but France and Russia do not. Such a circumstance would satisfy about half of Americans, with 52% then supporting action.

SUPPORT ACTION WITH BRITAIN, BUT WITHOUT FRANCE AND RUSSIA?

Yes, support action
52%
No, oppose action
41%

Whether or not the allies join a military coalition, Americans express a general desire to listen to what their allies have to say on the Iraq issue. 70% say the U.S. should consider allies' views on the matter rather than do whatever it thinks is right, regardless of what the allies believe.

Right now, Americans side with those allies who are urging patience on inspections. 62% of Americans would give the U.N. weapons inspectors more time to work, as opposed to 36% who would instead prefer a military strike soon.

SHOULD U.S. GIVE WEAPONS INSPECTORS MORE TIME?

Yes
62%
No
36%

Americans also want Congress to weigh in -- something that a majority thinks is not happening. Half of Americans think Congress is not asking enough questions about President Bush's policy toward Iraq, with 18% saying Congress is making adequate inquiries into the matter, and 19% saying Congress is asking too many questions. Last September, 44% said Congress was not asking enough questions about Bush's policy toward Iraq.

IS CONGRESS ASKING ENOUGH QUESTIONS ABOUT BUSH'S POLICY TOWARD IRAQ?

Not enough:

Now
51%
9/02
44%

Too Many:

Now
19%
9/02
22%

Right Amount:

Now
18%
9/02
16%


In the wake of the worldwide public protests against a war with Iraq just over a week ago, most Americans think the Administration should pay at least attention to the views of those protestors, and even more think it should heed the voice of the public as expressed in opinion polls.

Two-thirds think the Administration should take into account the opinions of the protestors, with one in four saying it should pay a lot of attention to them. 81% say the views of the public -- expressed in polls -- should be heeded, with more than a third saying those opinions should be heeded a lot. A third say the Administration shouldn't pay attention to the protestors; 15% think the Administration should ignore the polls.

WHEN DECIDING WHAT TO DO WITH IRAQ, THE ADMINSTRATION SHOULD TAKE INTO ACCOUNT VIEWS OF…

Anti-war protesters:

A lot
26%
Some
39%
Not much/Not at all
34%

The American public:

A lot
37%
Some
44%
Not much/Not at all
15%

Democrats feel especially strongly about this. In both cases, about half of Democrats say the Bush Administration should consider each group's views a lot.

72% of the public thinks Americans who oppose a war with Iraq should be able to hold protest marches or rallies, up from 66% just two weeks ago.

THE U.S. AND THE WORLD

As war in Iraq looms closer, tensions between the U.S. and some of its allies appear to be growing. Many describe relations between the U.S. and its European allies as worse than they were two years ago. Half the number that viewed France as an ally three years ago do so now. Meanwhile, the number of Americans who think world leaders do not respect President Bush has increased since last year.

46% of Americans now say relations between the United States and its European allies are worse than they were two years ago. This is up fifteen percentage points in just one month. 41% say relations are about the same, while only 7% say U.S. relations with its European allies has gotten better.

U.S. RELATIONS WITH EUROPEAN ALLIES
Compared to two years ago…

Getting better:

Now
7%
1/2003
14%

Getting worse:

Now
46%
1/2003
31%

About the same:

Now
41%
1/2003
52%

When asked more generally about U.S. relations with "other countries in the world," opinions are just as negative. 47% say relations with other countries are worse than they were two years ago, while 41% say relations are about the same.

U.S. RELATIONS WITH OTHER COUNTRIES
Compared to two years ago…


Getting better
11%
Getting worse
47%
About the same
41%

Disagreement between the U.S. and other countries with regard to Iraq has affected American opinion of at least one European ally: France. France, along with Russia and Germany, is offering a counter-proposal to the U.S.- backed resolution presented to the U.N. Security Council earlier this week.

Only 28% of Americans now view France as an ally of the U.S. 41% describe France as friendly, but not an ally. 20% view France as unfriendly, while 5% see France as an enemy of the U.S.


IMAGE OF FRANCE

Ally:

Now
28%
Gallup Poll 5/2000
50%

Friendly, but not an ally:

Now
41%
Gallup Poll 5/2000
40%

Unfriendly:

Now
20%
Gallup Poll 5/200
4%

Enemy:

Now
5%
Gallup Poll 5/2000
1%


These opinions of France are vastly different than they were three years ago. According to a Gallup Poll taken in May 2000, half of Americans said France was an ally of the U.S., and another 40% said France was friendly.

Despite Russia's stand with France on this matter, American opinion of Russia has not been affected. Its' image is modestly better than that of France. One in five Americans deem Russia an ally of the U.S., and an additional 60% say Russia is friendly but not an ally. These numbers are virtually unchanged from 2001.

Opinions of Canada remain positive. 65% of Americans say Canada is an ally of the U.S., while 30% say it is friendly, but not an ally.

IMAGE OF SOME OTHER COUNTRIES

Canada:

Ally
65%
Friendly but not an ally
30%
Unfriendly
1%
Enemy
0%

Russia

Ally
20%
Friendly but not an ally
60%
Unfriendly
8%
Enemy
4%

Just under half the public now say leaders of countries around the world respect George W. Bush, but 39% believe he is not respected. The number who says the President is respected by foreign leaders has dropped significantly from this time last year. In February 2002, 67% of Americans said leaders of other countries respected George W. Bush. However, back in 2001, prior to September 11 th, 44% of Americans believed Bush was not respected by foreign leaders.

DO LEADERS AROUND THE WORLD RESPECT GEORGE W. BUSH?

Yes:
Now
49%
2/2002
67%
6/2001
37%

No:

Now
39%
2/2002
22%
6/2001
44%

Most Americans think the amount of respect given to George W. Bush by world leaders does affect the U.S.'s ability to accomplish its foreign policy goals.

Large majorities say the views of America's allies should be taken into account when it comes to foreign policy in general. 72% of Americans say the U.S. should take into account the views of its allies on foreign matters even before doing what it thinks is right. This is up from last February, when 63% thought this way.

ON FOREIGN POLICY, U.S. SHOULD:

Do what it thinks is right
24%
Take allies into account
72%

Despite their expressed desire to have United Nations approval before any U.S. military action, Americans are divided on how the U.N. is handling the Iraqi situation. The number believing the U.N. is doing a good job now stands at 45%, while 47% say it is doing a poor job. This is not much changed from two weeks ago.

RATING THE U.N.'S HANDLING OF IRAQ

Good job:

Now
45%
Two weeks ago
46%

Poor job:

Now
47%
Two weeks ago
48%

Some of this has to do with views on military action. Those who feel Iraq is a threat requiring immediate action think the U.N. is doing a poor job, with 62% saying so. Of those who think Iraq can be contained, a slim majority, 55%, thinks the U.N. is doing a good job with the crisis.

AFTER A WAR

If the U.S. does go to war, Americans are very willing to keep troops there to help stabilize the region, but are hesitant to open their wallets to help rebuild post-war Iraq. 72% say the U.S. should maintain peacekeeping troops in Iraq, but only 47% would approve of helping to pay the costs of rebuilding Iraq.

AFTER A WAR, SHOULD THE U.S…

Help pay to rebuild Iraq:

Yes
47%
No
48%

Keep peacekeeping forces in Iraq:

Yes
72%
No
24%

In late February of 1991, over three-fourths of Americans thought that the U.S. should not help pay to rebuild Iraq, had that been option following the conflict.

Those who support military action against Iraq disapprove of the U.S. funding rebuilding costs, by 53% to 45%.

In general, the public continues to have economic concerns for the U.S. 44% would rather have Congress prioritize the economy instead of Iraq. 24% think Iraq should be the priority, 28% say it should be the war on terrorism.

WHICH SHOULD CONGRESS CONCENTRATE ON?

Economy:

Now
44%
2/12/03
41%

War on terror:

Now
28%
2/12/03
23%

Iraq:

Now
24%
2/12/03
30%

Americans worry about another cost of a war -- that there could be terrorist repercussions in the U.S. 58% believe terrorism will increase if the U.S. takes military action against Iraq.

Overall, Americans believe another terrorist attack is likely soon: 74% think so. Two weeks ago, amidst the announcement of an increased alert level, the number believing an attack was likely reached 80%, up from 62% in January, before slipping back a bit to its present level. However, most people are not personally concerned about an attack in the area where they live; 66% say they are not.

With the U.S. continuing on high terror alert, Americans are somewhat more concerned about a possible negative impact of the Bush Administration's foreign policy. 40% think the Administration's foreign policy is making the U.S. safer from terrorist attacks, down from 46% in January. A quarter now say Bush's foreign policy is making the U.S. less safe; another third say it doesn't make any difference.

ADMINISTRATION'S FOREIGN POLICY IS MAKING THE U.S.:

More safe from terrorist attacks:

Now
40%
1/03
46%

Less safe:

Now
24%
1/03
17%

No difference:

Now
31%
1/03
34%

61% of Republicans say Bush's foreign policy has made the U.S. safer, while Democrats and Independents are divided. Men (46%) are more likely than women (34%) to say the Administration's foreign policy is making the U.S. a safer place.

THE PRESIDENT

The situation in Iraq and the poor economy are still taking a toll on public views of the President. Bush's overall approval rating is 56%, not much changed from two weeks ago. His job approval ratings since the beginning of 2003 look similar to the ratings he received prior to 9/11, when his job approval hovered in the mid-fifties.

Amid recent disagreements among countries regarding military action against Iraq, 51% of Americans now approve of Bush's handling of foreign policy. Four in ten approve of his handling of the economy. A majority of the public, 52%, however, continues to approve of his handling of the situation with Iraq.

BUSH JOB APPROVAL

Overall:

Now
56%
2/12/03
54%

Foreign policy:

Now
51%
2/12/03
47%

Economy:

Now
40%
2/12/03
38%

Handling situation with Iraq:

Now
52%
2/12/03
53%

There is one aspect of Bush's speeches that Americans especially like. 63% say they like the way President Bush talks in public about his strong religious beliefs; 24% say that it bothers them. In 1976, 78% said that it did not bother them when President Jimmy Carter talked about his religious beliefs.



This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 681 adults, interviewed by telephone February 24-25, 2003. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus four percentage points. Sampling error for subgroups may be higher.

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

  • John Esterbrook

Comments

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.