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Poll: Iraq War Takes Toll On U.S.

More than half of Americans today would prefer U.S. troops leave Iraq as soon as possible rather than have them stay in Iraq until that country is a stable democracy, which many do not think will happen. Asked what should happen right now, a third wants all troops to be removed immediately. Many Americans are concerned that Iraq is drawing resources needed in the U.S.

Half of Americans think the fighting in Iraq has been harder than they expected, and the personal impact of the war is also taking a toll. Almost two thirds say it has affected their community, and most of them say the impact has been negative. The war has had a disproportionate impact in the South, among lower-income Americans and African-Americans.

WHEN SHOULD U.S. TROOPS LEAVE?
52 percent think U.S. troops should leave Iraq as soon as possible even if Iraq is not stable -- the highest since this poll starting asking the question in June 2004. Earlier this year, opinion was reversed: in February 55 percent said U.S. troops should stay as long it takes to make sure Iraq is a stable democracy.

U.S. TROOPS IN IRAQ SHOULD…
Stay as long as it takes
Now
42%
2/2005
55%
6/2004
54%

Leave as soon as possible
Now
52%
2/2005
40%
6/2004
40%

Opinion is also divided as to whether Iraq will ever become a stable democracy. 47 percent expect that will happen, but most of them expect that to take longer than a year or two. 50 percent think Iraq will never become a stable democracy. These views are similar to last month.

STABLE DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ…
Will happen with a year or two
Now
4%
8/2005
6%
2/2005
9%

Will happen, but will take longer
Now
43%
8/2005
43%
2/2005
55%

Will never happen
Now
50%
8/2005
48%
2/2005
34%

63 percent of Democrats think democracy in Iraq will never occur, while Republicans are more optimistic. 67 percent of Republicans think Iraq will become a democracy; most of them expect that process to take longer than a year or two, however.

When asked what should happen with U.S. troops right now, 32 percent of Americans say all troops should be removed now and another 27 percent want troop levels lowered. One-third would either keep levels the same or increase them. These opinions are similar to what they have been since August.

U.S. TROOP LEVELS IN IRAQ SHOULD BE…
Increased 10%
Kept the same 26%
Decreased 27%
Remove all troops 32%

The Bush Administration often mentions that the war in Iraq is making the U.S. safer from terrorism, but a declining number of Americans believe that result is coming to pass. Today, 30 percent think the U.S. is safer from the threat of terrorism as a result of the war -- down from 50 percent in January 2004. 46 percent now think the war has had no effect on the terrorist threat against the U.S.

WAR IN IRAQ HAS MADE U.S.:
Safer from terrorism
Now
30%
3/2004
36%
1/2004
50%

Less safe from terrorism
Now
23%
3/2004
22%
1/2004
18%

Had no effect
Now
46%
3/2004
38%
1/2004
29%

There are partisan differences on this question: 57 percent of Republicans think the war has made the U.S. safer, but 55 percent of Democrats think it has made no difference, and another 32 percent think it has actually made the U.S. less safe.

48 percent of Americans do admit the fighting in Iraq has been harder than they'd thought it would be, but 44 percent say the fighting is about what they expected. Only 4 percent say the fighting in Iraq has been easier.

THE FIGHTING IN IRAQ HAS BEEN…
Harder than you expected 48%
Easier than you expected 4%
The same as you expected 44%

Moreover, the number of American military casualties in Iraq has been more than many expected: 45 percent say there have been more casualties than they thought there would be. Only 15 percent say there have fewer than they expected, and 18 percent say the number is about as they had expected.

Among those who stated an expectation about U.S. troop casualties, 33 percent say there have been between 1,000 and 1,999 casualties (as of today, there have been about 1,900 U.S. troop deaths in Iraq). 32 percent say there have been 2,000 or more casualties. Just 4 percent think there have been fewer than 1,000 American military casualties.

Whatever their feelings about how long troops ought to stay, most of the public is convinced that U.S. troops will be in Iraq for at least two more years, and 28 percent say it will be more than five years.


HOW MUCH LONGER WILL U.S. TROOPS HAVE TO STAY IN IRAQ?
Less than a yea
6%
One to two years
20%
Two to five years
38%
More than five years
28%

THE WAR'S IMPACT IN COMMUNITIES BACK HOME
Most Americans say they are feeling the impact of the Iraq war in their own community -- and one-fourth say there has been a major impact.

THE WAR'S IMPACT ON YOUR OWN COMMUNITY
Major impact 27%
Minor impact 37%
Not much impact 24%
No impact 10%

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.

WAR HAS HAD MAJOR IMPACT ON THEIR COMMUNITY
Northeast 23%
Midwest 23%
South 34%
West 25%

Whites 23%
Blacks 43%

Republicans 22%
Democrats 32%
Independents 26%

Under $30k 37%
$30-$50k 23%
Over $50k 21%

Cities 32%
Suburbs 24%
Rural areas 25%

That impact has been primarily a negative one. 62 percent 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 percent said it was positive.

WAS IMPACT OF WAR MOSTLY…?
Among those whose community was affected by war
Negative
62%
Positive
29%

African-Americans are more likely to say their community has seen a major impact from the war, and more likely to say that impact was negative. African Americans are also more likely than white Americans to be a member of a military family (though not necessarily to have served in Iraq). 84 percent of African-Americans who say their community has been affected by the war say that the impact has been negative. Whites are less likely to call the impact negative, but most, 57 percent, still do.

WAS IMPACT OF WAR MOSTLY…?
Among those whose community was affected by war
Positive
Whites
33%
African Americans
14%

Negative
Whites
57%
African Americans
84%

In this poll, 33 percent of African Americans say they or a member of their family is currently serving in the U.S. armed forces. Among whites, 20 percent say they are a member of a military family.

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

Perhaps because of the perceived negative impact on their communities, 40 percent of Iraq military families want all troops to be removed from Iraq now, compared to 32 percent of all Americans.

WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN TO U.S. TROOPS?
Increase
All
10%
Iraq military families
8%

Keep same
All
26%
Iraq military families
30%

Decrease
All
27%
Iraq military families
17%

Remove all now
All
32%
Iraq military families
40%

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

These servicemen and women and their family members, some of whom have seen the situation in Iraq firsthand, share with all Americans the skepticism that Iraq will never become a stable democracy.

WILL IRAQ BECOME A STABLE DEMOCRACY?
Yes, in the next year or two
All
4%
Iraq military families
2%

Yes, but will take longer
All
43%
Iraq military families
39%

No, never
All
50%
Iraq military families
56%

The President gets only a 35 percent approval rating for his handling of the Iraq war from these Iraq military families -- the same level of approval Bush receives from Americans overall on his handling of Iraq.

THE COSTS OF WAR

Most Americans are very concerned that the war is costing money and expending resources that are needed in the U.S. instead.

CONCERN ABOUT WAR'S COST TAKING RESOURCES NEEDED IN U.S.
Very concerned
53%
Somewhat concerned
30%
Not very/not at all concerned
16%

Most Republicans -- who overwhelming say waging the war has been the right thing to do -- are nonetheless at least somewhat concerned about a diversion of resources. Most Democrats and Independents are very concerned about it. This poll was conducted in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the beginning of discussion of what that rebuilding would require.

When given specific policy tradeoffs to consider in exchange for paying for the war, Americans reject some measures that might impact their wallets, or key services back home. Most would not want cuts in education or health care in order to help pay for the war; neither would they accept paying more in taxes.

IN ORDER TO PAY FOR IRAQ, WOULD YOU ACCEPT…
Eliminating the recent tax cuts
Yes
36%
No
55%

Paying more in taxes
Yes
20%
No
77%

Spending cuts on education and health care
Yes
7%
No
90%

The relatively few who would accept more taxes would pay $200 more per year. And although they disagree on so many aspects of the Iraq war, Republicans and Democrats agree on these points; in neither group would most be willing to make the tradeoffs.

This unwillingness is very different from Americans' readiness to pay for Katrina relief: most -- 62 percent - say they would pay more in taxes to help job training and housing efforts for victims of the storm, and 56 percent would pitch in more tax dollars to assist recovery efforts, generally.

Americans divide over whether or not the war is preventing the President from dealing with domestic issues in the U.S. And on this, partisan views prevail: Republicans say President Bush is focusing on both, while Democrats see the war as diverting his attention from important domestic issues.

IS PRES. BUSH DEALING WITH BOTH WAR AND DOMESTIC ISSUES?
Yes
All
47%
Reps
74%
Dems
24%
Inds
49%

No
All
47%
Reps
22%
Dems
67%
Inds
45%

OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF THE WAR IN IRAQ
Slightly more Americans think the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq than think the U.S. did the right thing taking military action there. Those figures have changed little since late last year.

U.S. MILITARY ACTION IN IRAQ
Right thing
Now
44%
Last month
45%
10/2004
53%

Should have stayed out
Now
50%
Last month
49%
10/2004
42%

Views are highly partisan; 78 percent of Republicans think U.S. military action against Iraq was the right thing to do, while 76 percent of Democrats think the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq.

Nor do Americans share a common sense of pride in the U.S.'s actions in Iraq. 43 percent say they are proud of U.S. military action there, but 49 percent are not proud. Most of those who think taking military action was the right thing to do are proud, while most who think the U.S. ought to have stayed out of Iraq are not proud.

PRESIDENT BUSH AND THE WAR
Although many Americans say they would like to see troop levels at least decreased now, a large majority of Americans thinks the President has not yet developed a clear plan for getting troops out of Iraq.

DOES PRESIDENT BUSH HAVE A CLEAR PLAN FOR GETTING TROOPS OUT OF IRAQ?
Yes
21%
No
75%

There are noteworthy partisan differences. 90 percent of Democrats think the President doesn't have a plan. But Republicans are more evenly split; 43 percent think President Bush does, while 50 percent think he doesn't.

Just 35 percent express confidence in President Bush's ability to make the right decisions about the war; 63 percent say they are uneasy about his approach.

CONFIDENT PRES. BUSH WILL MAKE THE RIGHT DECISIONS ON IRAQ
Confident
35%
Uneasy
63%

Bush receives a similar 36 percent approval rating for his overall handling of the war. 59 percent disapprove.

AFRICAN-AMERICANS AND THE IRAQ WAR
From the start, African Americans have been less supportive of the war in Iraq than white Americans, and most now want the U.S. to remove all its troops from Iraq.

In this poll, just one in five African Americans think taking military action against Iraq was the right thing to do compared to 49 percent of whites.

U.S. MILITARY ACTION IN IRAQ
Right thing
Whites
49%
African Americans
19%

Should have stayed out
Whites
45%
African Americans
77%

76 percent of African-Americans think U.S. troops should leave Iraq as soon as possible, even if Iraq is not stable. Whites are more divided: 47 percent say U.S. troops should stay as long it takes to make sure Iraq is a stable democracy, while 47 percent think troops should leave as soon as possible.

U.S. TROOPS IN IRAQ SHOULD…
Stay as long as it takes
Whites
47%
African Americans
20%

Leave as soon as possible
Whites
47%
African Americans
76%

In fact, six in 10 African Americans want all U.S. troops to leave Iraq now. Only 26 percent of white Americans think the troops should come home now.

U.S. TROOP LEVELS IN IRAQ SHOULD BE…
Increased
Whites
10%
African Americans
6%

Kept the same
Whites
29%
African Americans
15%

Decreased
Whites
29%
African Americans
18%

Remove all troops
Whites
26%
African Americans
60%

African Americans do not have a feeling of pride in the U.S.'s actions in Iraq. 80 percent say they are not proud of U.S. military action there, but 51 percent of whites say they are.

DO YOU FEEL PROUD ABOUT WHAT THE U.S. IS DOING IN IRAQ?
Yes
Whites
51%
African Americans
10%

No
Whites
42%
African Americans
80%

While both blacks and whites are concerned that the war is costing money and expending resources that are needed in the U.S., 71 percent of African Americans say they are very concerned, compared to 48 percent of whites.

57 percent of African Americans say the Iraq war is preventing President Bush from dealing with domestic issues in this country, while three in 10 think he is focusing on both. Whites are more divided; 51 percent say President Bush is dealing with both the Iraq war and domestic problems.

IS PRES. BUSH DEALING WITH BOTH WAR AND DOMESTIC ISSUES?
Yes
Whites
43%
African Americans
57%

No
Whites
51%
African Americans
31%



This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1167 adults, interviewed by telephone September 9-13, 2005. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. An oversample of African Americans was also conducted for this poll, for a total of 211 interviews among this group. The margin of error for African Americans is plus or minus seven points.

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

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