Americans now anticipate a long conflict in Yugoslavia, according to the latest CBS News poll.
A large and growing number - 49 percent - expect the fighting in Kosovo to last at least several more months, and more than a third - 37 percent - expect it to go on for a year or longer. Only 7 percent believe the war will be over in a few more weeks.
At the same time, support for U.S. and NATO air strikes in Yugoslavia is stable, but the public remains divided on the question of sending in U.S. ground troops, something most expect will happen eventually.
Kosovo is increasingly on the public's mind, as indicated by the nearly one in five Americans who now cite the situation in Yugoslavia as the most important problem facing the nation.
The conflict in Kosovo was named by 17 percent of the public as the country's most important problem, far ahead of any domestic problem, including crime, drugs, morals, education, poverty and the economy.
The poll also shows continued expectations for an escalation of the conflict. Nearly two-thirds of the public now say it is likely that the fighting will spread to other European countries, up from 60 percent just last week.
Public support for U.S.-NATO air strikes and for U.S. involvement in Yugoslavia in general continues at similar levels to those seen in last week's poll:
- By 59 percent to 29 percent, Americans favor the U.S. and NATO bombing strikes.
- 55 percent say the U.S. did the right thing getting involved in the Kosovo conflict, while 33 percent say the U.S. should have stayed out of it.
Unchanged are public doubts about whether to increase U.S. involvement in the conflict by sending in ground troops. As was the case in previous polls, public opinion about sending U.S. ground troops remains divided: 45 percent of Americans favor this measure, and 46 percent oppose it.
By 53 percent to 32 percent, Americans approve of the way President Clinton is handling the situation in Kosovo. That figure has barely moved since the conflict began.
In fact, the president's overall approval rating and assessments of his leadership qualities also remain high. Sixty-one percent approve of the way he is doing his job, while 64 percent say he has strong qualities of leadership.
This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 878 adults, interviewed by telephone April 13-14, 1999. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus four percentage points.
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