CBS Poll: Public Supports Attack

The American public overwhelmingly supports the U.S. military action in Iraq, accepts President Clinton's explanation that the attack needed to take place now, and would, at least in principle, even continue the attack until Saddam Hussein is removed from power, according to the latest CBS News poll.
Usually, the first reaction to any military action is a public rallying in support. A large majority of Americans have done just that, even on the brink of a vote in the House of Representatives on the impeachment of President Clinton. A total of 79 percent say they favor the U.S.-led air strikes against Iraq, while 16 percent oppose them.

IT'S WORTH THE COST
By 62 percent to 25 percent, the public thinks this military action is worth the potential loss of American life and other costs.


Click here for our complete coverage of the crises in Baghdad and Washington.

And, these air strikes are taken against a regime most Americans would like to see ended.

By more than two to one, Americans say the U.S. should continue air strikes until Saddam Hussein is removed from power, not just until he cooperates with United Nations weapons inspectors.

TIMING OF THE ATTACKS


U.S. Air Strikes Against Iraq
FAVOR
79%

OPPOSE
16%


As for the impact of the impeachment debate on the current conflict, more think that Saddam Hussein's actions were affected by it than think the president's were. People are evenly divided on whether Iraq's non-compliance had anything to do with the president's impeachment troubles. But by more than two to one, the public thinks Mr. Clinton's timing had more to do with the need to respond immediately to Iraq's non-compliance and not the impending impeachment vote.

Most Americans accept the President's explanations abut the air strikes. Seventy-five percent say he has explained the situation well enough so that they understand why the U.S. launched air strikes against Iraq.

THE IMPEACHMENT DEBATE


Continue Strikes Until Saddam Hussein . . .
IS REMOVED FROM POWER
63%

COOPERATES WITH WEAPONS INSPECTIONS
27%

By 61 percent to 35 percent, Americans are content to postpone the impeachment debate and vote because of the situation in Iraq.

Those who want President Clinton impeached are evenly divided on whether the debate should be delayed during this military situation. Those who oppose impeachment overwhelmingly favor postponement of debate.

However, opinions about impeachment don't matter when it comes to support for the U.S. air strikes. Large majorities of both impeachment supporters and opponents favor air strikes, think the President has explained his reasons for ordering them sufficiently, and favor continuation of the strikes until Saddam Hussein is removed from power. In fact, there are few partisan differences on any of these questions, with Democrats and Republicans about equally supportive.


Hussein's Timing Have Anything To Do With Impeachment?
YES
45%

NO
49%

But views on impeachment are critical in assessing the timing of decisions by both sides in the crisis. By 59 percent to 35 percent, impeachment supporters think the President's impeachment troubles had something to do with Iraq's non-compliance. By a similar margin, impeachment opponents disagree. And impeachment supporters are evenly divided on whether the President's timing was mostly influenced by Thursday's previously scheduled debate on impeachment. By fou to one, impeachment opponents reject what has become known as the Wag the Dog scenario, after the movie that satirized presidential politics.

Despite the air strikes on Iraq, little has changed overall in one night when it comes to public opinion about how the president is doing his overall job and whether or not he should continue in office. Now, 67 percent approve of the way Mr. Clinton is handling his job overall, and 63 percent say they want their representative in Congress to vote against impeachment. Those percentages are essentially unchanged since earlier in the week. In fact, they have changed little all year long.


This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 413 adults interviewed by telephone December 16, 1998. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus five percentage points for results based on the entire sample.
Our Full Coverage
of this Ongoing Story