As the one-year anniversary of the Iraq war approaches, Americans continue to doubt whether the war in Iraq was worth the costs, although more than half think the U.S. made the right decision to get involved there, underscoring the nearly even split on evaluating the President's handling of Iraq. Half say the war was not worth the loss of American life and other costs of attacking Iraq, while 42 percent say it was worth it.
WAS IRAQ WAR WORTH THE COSTS?
Looking back a year later, only 42 percent say Iraq was a threat that required immediate military action in March 2003. This figure is mostly unchanged since last summer, after the end of major combat was declared. 45 percent of Americans now say Iraq was a threat that could have been contained, and 12 percent think Iraq was not a threat to the U.S. at all.
Nevertheless, 58 percent of Americans think the U.S. did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, but this number has been on the decline recently. 37 percent now say the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq.
DID THE U.S. DO THE RIGHT THING GOING TO WAR WITH IRAQ?
Yes, Right Thing
No, Should Have Stayed Out
LOOKING AHEAD: POTENTIAL TICKETS
A Democratic ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards - who just left the Democratic contest and endorsed Kerry -- runs only marginally better against the Republican incumbents in this poll than when respondents are asked to choose only between Kerry and Bush. And the ticket fares less well than it did two weeks ago, when Kerry and Edwards were leading Bush and Cheney by eight points.
KERRY-EDWARDS VS. BUSH-CHENEY
Kerry & Edwards
Two weeks ago 50%
Bush & Cheney
Two weeks ago 42%
The Democrats do less well in this poll if Congressman Dick Gephardt of Missouri -- another of Kerry's rivals from the nomination fight -- is added to the ticket. A Kerry-Gephardt ticket falls behind Bush-Cheney by six points.
KERRY-GEPHARDT VS. BUSH-CHENEY
Kerry & Gephardt 41%
Bush & Cheney 47
One surprise: Bush's running mate, Vice President Dick Cheney, still remains unknown to many voters even after more than three years in office. 43 percent of voters either have not heard enough about Vice-President Cheney, or have no opinion of him one way or the other. Those voters who are familiar with the Vice-President are more positive than negative about him, a reversal of his standing among registered voters from January, though still well below the levels he attained in November of 2000.
VIEWS OF DICK CHENEY
Independent candidate Ralph Nader is not known to 48 percent of voters, but he also elicits overwhelmingly negative reviews from the votes who do know him: just 14 percent have a favorable view of him while 37 percent hold an unfavorable view of the consumer advocate and former Green Party Presidential nominee. Nader is viewed slightly more favorably by Democrats than Republicans.
VIEWS OF RALPH NADER
So when included on the ballot -- something that may not be the case in all 50 states come November -- Nader draws 7 percent of the vote, mostly at Democrat John Kerry's expense. With Nader on the ballot Kerry's share drops to 38 percent, while Bush's holds steady at 46 percent.
KERRY VS. BUSH VS. NADER: CHOICE IN NOVEMBER
John Kerry 38%
George W. Bush 46%
Ralph Nader 7%
But as they look ahead to November, more voters expect George W. Bush to ultimately prevail in the election: 44 percent expect the President to win in the fall, and 35 percent expect John Kerry to win. Democratic voters are more pessimistic about their man's chances than Republican voters are about theirs. One in five Democrats expects Bush to win; only one in ten Republicans thinks Kerry will unseat the incumbent.
THE ECONOMIC POLICIES OF THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION
The economy is clearly the President's greatest weakness. The public continues to fault the Bush Administration for failing to create new jobs in the U.S., has yet to see positive effects of the Administration's policies on prescription drugs, or personal benefits of the Bush tax cuts.
Just 14 percent say the Administration's policies have increased the number of jobs in the U.S.; 47 percent blame the Administration's policies for decreasing the number of jobs. About a quarter say those policies had no effect on the job market.
EFFECT OF BUSH'S POLICIES ON THE JOB MARKET:
Increased the number of jobs
Had no effect
Seven in ten Democrats blame the Bush Administration for lost jobs in America, as do 48 percent of Independents. Even most Republicans are unwilling to credit the Administration for creating jobs -- 24 percent of Republicans say the Administration's policies have decreased the number of jobs in America, and 32 percent say those policies have made no difference.
Many Americans aren't clear yet about the effect of the Bush Administration's policies on the cost of prescription drugs for the elderly, but four times as many say the impact has been negative as say it has been positive: only 8 percent think the policies of the Bush Administration have decreased the cost of prescription drugs for the elderly, while 34 percent say those policies have caused the prescription drug cost to increase. Even more seniors - -43 percent -- agree.
ADMINISTRATION'S POLICIES HAVE MADE PRESCRIPTION DRUG COSTS FOR THE ELDERLY:
65 and older 43%
65 and older 8%
65 and older 30%
65 and older 19%
Additionally, seven in ten Americans have yet to personally benefit from Bush's tax cuts: 46 percent say their own taxes have stayed about the same under Bush's policies, and 25 percent report their taxes have gone up. Only 22 percent say their taxes have gone down.
PERSONAL TAXES HAVE:
Under $30K 33%
Over $75K 18%
Under $30L 10%
Over $75K 38%
Under $30K 51%
Over $75K 40%
There are marked differences on this question according to income level. 38 percent of those who have household incomes higher than $75,000 have seen their taxes go down, compared with just 10 percent of those whose household incomes are below $30,000. A full third of those in the latter income category say their taxes have gone up.
THE ECONOMY AND MOOD OF THE COUNTRY
54 percent now think the U.S. has seriously gotten off on the wrong track; 38 percent say the country is headed in the right direction. Views on this question have become significantly more negative since last December.
DIRECTION OF THE COUNTRY
Views of the direction of the country are closely tied to views about the overall state of the U.S. economy. Nearly half of Americans say the economy is worse today than it was when Bush first took office in 2001; one in five think the economy is now better than three years ago, and just over a quarter say it is the same.
THE ECONOMY TODAY COMPARED TO WHEN BUSH TOOK OFFICE:
Better today 20%
Worse today 48%
As for right now, 49 percent say the economy is bad, while another 49 percent say the economy is good. Looking ahead, 43 percent think the economy will stay about the same, while 27 percent say it is getting worse. 28 percent believe the economy is getting better, the lowest number since October.
THE ECONOMY IS GETTING…
Things are somewhat better on a personal level, with just over half saying their family's financial situation is about the same today as three years ago. However, only 21 percent say they are better off today than they were four years ago; 24 percent say their family is now financially worse off than they were when Bush took office.
FAMILY'S FINANCIAL SITUATION NOW COMPARED TO FOUR YEARS AGO:
Better Off Now
Worse Off Now
The public assessed its personal financial situation more positively at this point in 1996, the year Bill Clinton ran for re-election. In February 1996, by 33 percent to 17 percent, Americans said their families were financially better off compared to four years before, when Clinton first took office.
The Administration may get some leeway on the condition of the economy, with some Americans willing to put the blame for the economy's condition on the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. More than three quarters think the economy would be good had the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 not occurred. 14 percent think the economy would be bad even if September 11th had not happened.
HOW WOULD THE ECONOMY BE IF 9/11 HAD NOT HAPPENED?
Economy would be good 78%
Economy would be bad anyway 14%
But 9/11 imagery, in general, may not find favor with the public. President Bush has recently come under criticism for using images of that day in recent campaign commercials, and most Americans believe that in general, use of 9/11 images is not appropriate. 61 percent say it is not acceptable to use such images and just one-third say it is all right.
ACCEPTABLE TO USE 9/11 IMAGES IN CAMPAIGN ADS?
THE BUSH POLICIES ON TERRORISM
The Administration does show strength on one aspect of its policies, however: most Americans think the policies of the Bush Administration have made the U.S. safer from terrorism.
Six in ten say the Bush Administration's policies have made the U.S. safer from the threat of terrorism (mirroring the 64 percent approval rating the public gives President Bush on his handling of terrorism). 17 percent think the Administration's policies have made the U.S. less safe, and another 17 percent say they had no effect.
POLICIES OF THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION HAVE:
Made U.S. Safer From Terrorism
Made U.S. Less Safe
had No Effect
Nearly all Republicans (and six in ten Independents) say Bush's policies have made the U.S. safer from terrorism. Democrats are more mixed: 36 percent say those policies have made the U.S. safer, but another 36 percent say the policies have made the U.S. less safe. As noted above, majorities think both Bush and Kerry would protect the country from terrorism.
Last week's terrorist attacks in Spain happened while this poll was in the field, and interviewing was completed the day of the Spanish election, but views on this question did not vary significantly before and after news broke about the attacks.
This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1206 adults, interviewed by telephone March 10-14, 2004, including 984 registered voters. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample and for registered voters could be plus or minus three percentage points. Sampling error for subgroups may be higher.