Poll: Fading Support For Iraq War

Public support for U.S. involvement in Iraq continues to fall. By two to one, Americans reject financing the war through an increased federal deficit, and 62% would finance paying for the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast by cutting spending in Iraq.

More than half of Americans think Iraq is not secure enough to hold its constitutional referendum in just under a week, and many doubt that country will ever become a stable democracy.

U.S. INVOLVEMENT IN IRAQ

Public opinion is now fairly solidly against the war in Iraq. More than half of Americans – 55% - think the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq (the highest figure to date), while 41% think taking military action there was the right thing to do. As the war began, Americans overwhelmingly approved of U.S. action against Iraq; 69% said the U.S. did the right thing in taking military action (the highest level of support in our polls for the war). Support for the war waned in 2004.

DID U.S. DO THE RIGHT THING GOING TO WAR WITH IRAQ?

Now
Right thing
41%
Should have stayed out
55%

Feb. 2005
Right thing
46%
Should have stayed out
50%

Sept. 2004
Right thing
54%
Should have stayed out
39%

July 2004
Right thing
45%
Should have stayed out
47%

March 2004
Right thing
58%
Should have stayed out
37%

Dec. 2003
Right thing
63%
Should have stayed out
31%

March 2003
Right thing
69%
Should have stayed out
25%

In addition, almost two thirds of Americans think the result of the war with Iraq wasn't worth the loss of American life and other costs; 32% think it was.

IS RESULT OF WAR IN IRAQ WORTH ITS COSTS?
Now
Yes
32%
No
64%

7/2005
Yes
34%
No
59%

5/2004
Yes
29%
No
64%

12/2003
Yes
42%
No
47%

9/2003
Yes
41%
No
53%

In previous polls, adding Saddam Hussein's name to the question has caused opinion toward the war to become more favorable. That isn't the case in this poll. Now, the percentage that says removing Saddam Hussein from power was worth the costs has fallen to 34% -- nearly the same percentage that says the result of the war was worth the cost.

Most Americans also would like to see U.S. troops out of Iraq as soon as possible. Now, 59% want U.S. troops to leave, up from 52% last month and 40% earlier this year. Only 36% think troops should stay in Iraq as long as it takes for that country to become stable.

U.S. TROOPS IN IRAQ SHOULD…
Now
Stay as long as it takes
36%
Leave as soon as possible
59%

9/2005
Stay as long as it takes
42%
Leave as soon as possible
52%

2/2005
Stay as long as it takes
55%
Leave as soon as possible
40%

6/2004
Stay as long as it takes
54%
Leave as soon as possible
40%

Democrats and Republicans find themselves on different sides of the issue. 61% of Republicans want the U.S. to stay in Iraq for as long as it takes, while 73% of Democrats want U.S. troops out as soon as possible. 62% of Independents also want U.S. troops to leave. It is noteworthy, however, that 36% of Republicans, and 45% of conservatives, would like to see U.S. troops out of Iraq.

Assessments of how the U.S. is faring in Iraq have been negative for the past six months, and continue to be now. 43% think the war is going well for the U.S., while 55% think it is going badly.

Given the decreasing support for the U.S. presence in Iraq, it should not be surprising that spending for the war is not popular among the public. A majority of Americans are willing to cut spending in Iraq to pay for rebuilding the Gulf Coast, and 66% think it is unacceptable to increase the federal deficit in order to pay for the war.

Half of Republicans (and 48% of conservatives) are willing to incur a larger deficit to finance the war; only 17% of Democrats and 27% of Independents find this acceptable.

Furthermore, 62% find reducing spending on the war in Iraq acceptable as a means of paying recovery and rebuilding on the Gulf Coast.

CUT SPENDING IN IRAQ TO PAY FOR HURRICANE REBUILDING?
Acceptable
62%
Not acceptable
33%

Those who think the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq were asked how they felt about the war two years ago, when it first began. 63% of those now opposing said that two years ago, they felt the U.S. should not have taken military action against Iraq -- suggesting that for some, current views may color their recollections of how they felt a couple of years ago.

IRAQ'S FUTURE

Americans express doubt as to whether the country is secure enough to hold the constitutional referendum scheduled for October 15th. 34% think Iraq is secure enough for Iraqis to vote on their new constitution, but far more, 56%, think the country is not secure enough. In January, just before the successful and peaceful Iraqi parliamentary election, 65% thought the country was not secure enough for Iraqis to vote.

IS IRAQ SECURE ENOUGH FOR VOTING?
Yes
34%
No
56%

Republicans are far more optimistic than Democrats or Independents about the upcoming vote in Iraq. 52% of them think Iraq is secure enough for the constitutional vote, compared to 28% of Democrats and the same number of Independents.

The public is divided as to whether Iraq will ever become a stable democracy. 49% think that goal will never be reached, but as many think it will, although most of those foresee that happening in more than a year or two.

WILL IRAQ BECOME STABLE DEMOCRACY?
Yes, in next year or two
4%
Yes, will take longer
45%
No, never
49%

IRAQ AND TERRORISM

The public is dubious about direct ties between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 terrorists. 55% think Saddam Hussein was not involved in the attacks on 9/11 (unchanged in the past year), 33% think he was.

However, Americans are divided as to whether Hussein was working with Al Qaeda in the months before the war. 39% think they were working together, 41% think they were not. One in five isn't sure.

WAS HUSSEIN WORKING WITH AL QAEDA?
Yes
39%
No
41%

More Republicans than Democrats are convinced there were ties between Iraq and terrorism. 44% of Republicans think Hussein was involved in 9/11, and 61% think Hussein was working with Al Qaeda before the war.

There is no broad consensus as to the effect U.S. involvement in Iraq has had on terrorism against the U.S. 42% think the U.S. military action there has had no effect. 32% think it has made the U.S. safer, while 24% think it has made the U.S. less safe.

EFFECT OF WAR IN IRAQ ON TERRORISM AGAINST U.S.
Made U.S. safer
32%
Made U.S. less safe
24%
No effect
42%

Alternatively, when asked how removing Saddam Hussein from power has affected terrorism, even more, 55%, think it has had no impact. 27% think that made the U.S. safer, while 17% think it made the U.S. less safe.

MILITARY FAMILIES AND THE WAR'S IMPACT

In a CBS News/New York Times Poll conducted in September, almost two thirds of Americans said they are feeling the impact of the Iraq war in their own community.

Certain communities have been more greatly affected by the war than others. 34% of those living in the South say the war has had a major impact on their community; in other regions of the country, about one in four report the same. African Americans, Democrats, those living in cities, and lower income Americans are also more likely to report their communities have been affected by the war.

That impact has been primarily a negative one. 62% of those who say their community was impacted (in either a major or minor way) by the war said that impact was mostly negative; 29% said it was positive.

WAS IMPACT OF WAR MOSTLY…?
Among those whose community was affected by war

(CBS/NY Times Poll, September 2005)

Negative
62
Positive
29

The Iraq war has had an even greater impact on the communities of the 16% of Americans who say that either they, or a member of their family, has served in the military in Iraq. 43% of them say the war has had a major impact on their community, and another 32% say it has had a minor impact. Of those seeing an impact, 61% said that impact was negative.

Members of Iraq military families are more likely to be from the South than other regions of the country.

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

This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 808 adults, interviewed by telephone October 3-5, 2005. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus four percentage points.

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