Poll: U.S. Losing Control in Iraq

GENERIC george bush iraq casualties war deaths injured killed CBS/AP

With U.S. troops continuing to take casualties in Iraq, less than half of Americans now believe the U.S. is in control of the situation there -- a dramatic decline from April, when 71 percent thought it was.

Less than half now say Iraq was a threat that required immediate action. And while 54 percent still believe that removing Saddam Hussein from power was worth the costs of war, that figure, too, has declined from 65 percent in May.

A majority still believes the U.S. will eventually turn up weapons of mass destruction, but fewer are confident of this today than they were last month, and the public divides on whether the war will have been worth it if no weapons of mass destruction are found. For the first time a majority now says the Bush administration overestimated the extent of the Iraqis' weapons.

Americans continue to look homeward, and they rate the economy -- not Iraq -- as the nation's most important problem. There is even more concern about the state of the economy -- just one in four thinks it is improving.

Americans' belief that the U.S. is in control of the situation in Iraq has plummeted to 45 percent, down from 71 percent in late April.

IS THE U.S. IN CONTROL OF THE SITUATION IN IRAQ?

Yes
Now
45%
4/03
71%

No
Now
41%
4/03
20%


Americans are also less positive now in their assessment of the U.S. effort in Iraq. Today, six in ten say U.S. efforts are going at least somewhat well (only 6% describe them as going very well) and over one-third of Americans say the U.S. efforts are going badly, up from less than one in four who thought so in May.

U.S. EFFORTS TO BRING STABILITY TO IRAQ ARE…

Going very well
Now
6%
5/03
11%

Going somewhat well
Now
54%
5/03
61%

Going somewhat badly
Now
25%
5/03
19%

Going very badly
Now
11%
5/03
5%


These assessments come amid Americans' growing belief that the Iraqi people are resentful of the U.S. presence in Iraq.

THE IRAQI PEOPLE ARE…

Grateful to the U.S. for removing Saddam
Now
34%
5/03
46%

Resentful the U.S. is still in Iraq
Now
37%
5/03
31%

Both
Now
20%
5/03
20%

Americans now envision a long stay for U.S. troops in Iraq -- just 13 percent now think U.S. troops will be there under one year. In April, 40 percent thought this.

HOW LONG WILL U.S. TROOPS BE IN IRAQ?
Less than 1 year 13%
One to two years 31%
Two to five years 31%
More than five years 18%

And however long Americans foresee U.S. troops staying in Iraq, 45 percent of those who have a time frame in mind say it will be too long. That feeling is particularly high for those who believe the U.S. will be there more than five years: almost two-thirds of them think that will be too long.

As Americans' concerns have increased, the President's ratings for his handling of the Iraq situation have declined, though they remain positive, at 58 percent.

BUSH'S HANDLING OF IRAQ

Approve
Now 58%
5/03 72%
4/03 79%

WAS THE WAR WORTH IT?
Belief that removing Saddam Hussein was worth the loss of life and other costs of war has fallen of late: 54 percent now say that removing Saddam from power was worth it, while in May, two-thirds thought so.

WAS REMOVING SADDAM WORTH THE COSTS?

Yes
Now
54%
6/03
62%
5/03
65%

No
Now
37%
6/03
31%
5/03
28%

When asked to think of all the end results of the war, and not just Saddam's removal, Americans are even less likely to say those results have been worth the costs. And just as many say it was NOT worth the cost as say it was.

HAVE THE END RESULTS OF WAR IN IRAQ BEEN WORTH THE COSTS?
Yes 45%
No 45%

Men and women are greatly divided on this issue. A majority of men -- 56 percent - think the end results have been worth the costs, while just 35 percent of women agree.

And while a majority of Republicans say the results are worth it, less than half of both Democrats and Independents think so.

ARE THERE WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION?
For the first time, a majority of Americans report that they believe the Administration overestimated Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. 56 percent now think the Bush administration overstated the case.

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION…

Overestimated Iraqi weapons
Now
56%
6/03
44%

Correctly estimated Iraqi weapons
Now
19%
6/03
28%

Underestimated Iraqi weapons
Now
11%
6/03
14%

And while few Americans say the Administration was lying, 45 percent do think it was hiding important elements of what it knew. Just one-third believes the Administration was telling all that it knew. Half of Republicans think the Administration was telling at least most of what it knew, but one-third of Independents and one-fourth of Democrats agree.

BEFORE THE WAR, THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION WAS…

Telling most or all of what they knew about Iraq's weapons 36%
Hiding important elements of what they knew 45%
Mostly lying about Iraqi weapons 11%

55 percent remain confident that weapons will be found, but that is much lower today than last month, when two-thirds were confident the weapons would turn up.

WILL THE U.S. EVENTUALLY FIND IRAQI WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION?

Yes, confident it will
Now
55%
6/03
67%

No, not confident it will
Now
41%
6/03
30%

Americans are now evenly split over whether the war will have been worth it if no weapons are ever found. This is down from May, when a majority thought the war would be worth it even if no weapons turned up.

WILL THE WAR BE WORTH THE COSTS IF NO WMD'S ARE EVER FOUND?

Yes, it will have been worth it
Now
46%
5/03
56%

No, it won't have been worth it
Now
46%
5/03
38%

Those who say it will still have been worth it believe that there are other benefits to the war: first, that removing Saddam makes the war worth it, even if no weapons are ever found; and second, that it helped stop terrorism or removed a threat to the U.S. Less often mentioned as a justification is liberating the people of Iraq.

Overall, Americans are split over whether it matters that the U.S. is able to turn up any weapons or not. The number that now believes it matters -- 47 percent - has dropped from 58 percent last month. Of those who believe that the war will not have been worth it if no weapons are found, a majority also believes that it matters whether or not the U.S. finds them.

For the first time since the war began, less than half say Iraq really was a threat that required military action -- and a majority says it could have been contained or was no threat at all. In April, 58 percent thought so. Before the war, Americans express similar opinions, changing only when American troops went into battle.

IRAQ WAS…

A threat requiring immediate military action
Now
43%
6/03
53%
4/03
58%
2/03
44%

A threat that could have been contained
Now
43%
6/03
35%
4/03
47%
2/03
45%

Not a threat
Now
9%
6/03
10%
4/03
8%
2/03
5%


THE HUNT FOR SADDAM
For many Americans, the war was about finding and getting rid of Saddam Hussein. And whether he is dead or alive matters to most Americans -- more than finding weapons.

DOES IT MATTER WHETHER SADDAM IS DEAD OR ALIVE?

Yes
Now
67%
5/03
56%

No
Now
30%
5/03
42%

Meanwhile, with the release of audiotapes that many experts believe carry the voice of Saddam Hussein, the number of Americans who think the former dictator is alive has risen sharply: today, 83 percent suspect he is still alive -- up from 59 percent who thought so just after the start of the war.


IS SADDAM ALIVE OR DEAD?

Probably alive
Now
83%
5/03
77%
4/03
59%

Probably dead
Now
10%
5/03
17%
4/03
28%

And Americans rate Saddam himself as having been a major threat to the U.S. -- 56 percent say so, and only 12 percent think he was never a threat.

SADDAM HUSSEIN WAS…

A major threat 56%
A minor threat 28%
Not a threat 12%

THE ECONOMY
To many Americans, it is the economy and jobs that matters, more than the continuing hostilities in Iraq and more even than the terrorist threat. And the public continues to give the economy -- and the President's handling of it -- decidedly mixed reviews.

Now, almost four in ten -- 39 percent - cite the economy and jobs as the number one problem facing the country today. Terrorism and the war in Iraq are each far behind.

MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEM

Economy/jobs
Now
39%
5/29
39%
5/12
40%
4/27
41%
4/13
33%

War in Iraq/foreign policy
Now
10%
5/29
8%
5/12
9%
4/27
9%
4/13
12%

Terrorism
Now
9%
5/29
16%
5/12
8%
4/27
9%
4/13
7%

More than half of Americans say the national economy is worse today than it was two years ago, during the first year of Bush's presidency. 30 percent say it is about the same, but just 13 percent think the economy is better today than it was two years ago. However, when the public is asked to assess their family's financial situation, they are modestly more positive. Half say their situation is about the same as it was two years ago. While just one in five say it's better, one in four says it's worse.

COMPARED TO TWO YEARS AGO…

Nation's Economy
Better
13%
Worse
55%
Same
30%

Own Financial Situation
Better
22%
Worse
27%
Same
51%

45 percent now say the economy is in good shape, but 52 percent say the economy is in bad shape.

RATING THE ECONOMY
Good 45%
Bad 52%

And while most Americans do not think the economy is getting worse, only 23 percent think it's getting better. 48 percent say the economy is staying the same.

THE ECONOMY IS…
Getting better 23%
Staying the same 48%
Getting worse 27%

As has been the case for the past few months, the public gives the president mixed marks on his handling of the economy. 41% approve of his handling of the economy and 46% disapprove. These numbers are down from last summer when more than half of Americans approved of the job Bush was doing on the economy.

BUSH'S HANDLING OF THE ECONOMY

Approve
Now
41%
5/2003
44%
7/2002
56%

Disapprove
Now
46%
5/2003
49%
7/2002
35%

Public perceptions of Bush's handling of the economy are tied to their assessment of it. Of those who say the economy is in bad shape, 66 percent disapprove of Bush's handling of the economy; and among those who say the economy is in good shape, an equal 66 percent approve of his handling of the economy.

While his ratings on the economy are not stellar, Americans may not blame Bush alone for the state of the nation's economy. Only a third think the policies of the Bush Administration have a lot to do with the economy's current condition, and half say the Administration's policies have a little to do with the economy's current condition. These numbers are nearly identical to a couple of months ago.

BUSH'S POLICIES: IMPACT ON ECONOMY?

A lot
Now
36%
5/2003
34%

A little
Now
47%
5/2003
52%

None
Now
8%
5/2003
10%

There are partisan differences on how much Bush's policies impact the economy. By 48 percent to 27 percent, more Democrats than Republicans say the economy's current condition has a lot to do with the policies of the Bush Administration.

U.S. FOREIGN POLICY
The general doctrine of pre-emption meets increasingly low levels of support among Americans. Today, 58 percent say the U.S. should not attack another country unless the U.S. is attacked first.

THE U.S. SHOULD…

Not attack another country unless attacked first
Now
58%
5/03
53%

Be able to attack any country that might attack U.S.
Now
33%
5/03
39%


And as a general rule, Americans also reject the idea of the U.S. trying to change dictatorships into democracies where it can, preferring instead to stay out of other countries' affairs.

THE U.S. SHOULD…
Try to change dictatorship to democracy where it can 19%
Stay out of other countries' affairs 61

THE PRESIDENT
President Bush's overall job rating is now 60 percent, down from 66 percent last month, and his lowest rating since before the start of the war in Iraq. The President's rating on handling of Iraq has dropped 14 points since May. Just 58 percent now approve of the way Bush is handling the situation there, compared to 72 percent who approved in May. As for other foreign policy issues besides Iraq, only 50 percent approve of his handling of those.

APPROVAL RATINGS OF GEORGE W. BUSH

Overall
Now
60%
6/2003
66%
5/2003
64%

Handling Iraq
Now
58%
5/2003
72%

Handling economy
Now
41%
5/2003
44%

Foreign Policy Issues
Now
50%
5/2003
54%

THE DEMOCRATS AND THE RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE
The second quarter financial reports are in, and while the Democratic presidential candidates may have raised more money, they haven't raised public awareness. The majority of Americans are still unfamiliar with the Democratic presidential candidates for 2004.

Only one-third of Americans say they can name at least one candidate for the Democratic nomination for President (and just 28 percent can correctly offer at least one name for the Democratic candidates). Only one-third of Democrats can name a Democratic candidate at this point. These numbers are essentially unchanged from May.

Nationwide, no single Democratic candidate enjoys a clear advantage when it comes to name recognition. Howard Dean, John Kerry and Joe Lieberman (who ran for Vice-President in 2000) are among the most frequently mentioned. Among Democrats, 7 percent name John Kerry and 7 percent name Howard Dean. Two months ago, Joe Lieberman was the most frequently-recalled by both Democrats and the public overall, and Dean was named by just 1 percent.

CAN YOU NAME ANY DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES?

All Americans
No, cannot recall any 66%
John Kerry 7%
Howard Dean 7%
Joe Lieberman 6%
Richard Gephardt 3%
Bob Graham 1%
John Edwards 1%
Dennis Kucinich 1%
Al Sharpton 2%
Others 6%

Among Democrats
No, cannot recall any 66%
John Kerry 7%
Howard Dean 7%
Joe Lieberman 6%
Richard Gephardt 3%
Bob Graham 1%
John Edwards 1%
Dennis Kucinich 1%
Al Sharpton 2%
Others 6%




This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 753 adults interviewed by telephone July 8-9, 2003. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus four percentage points for results based on the entire sample.

For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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