Poll: Split on Troop Levels in Afghanistan

Americans are evenly divided on what should happen with U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, a new CBS News survey finds, with 37 percent backing an increase and 38 percent favoring a decrease. Another 17 percent want troop levels kept where they are now.

Democrats are more likely to want troop levels reduced, while Republicans want them increased. Independents are divided.

CBSNews.com Special Report: Afghanistan

With the war entering its ninth year, the Obama administration is enmeshed in an intense evaluation of the war in an effort to decide if it should add troops in addition to the 68,000 already stationed there, and, if so, how many.

The top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has suggested that the mission risks failure unless the United States adds an additional 40,000 troops; top administration officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, have reportedly advocated a counterterrorism strategy that doesn't rely on a troop serge.

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As questions have swirled over the U.S. strategy going forward, President Obama has a slide in his approval ratings on his handling of the situation in Afghanistan. In April, 58 percent approved of his handling of the conflict; by August, that number had fallen to 48 percent. In the most recent survey it has hit its lowest level yet, 42 percent.

Thirty-four percent, meanwhile, say they disapprove of the president's handling of Afghanistan, while roughly one in four don't have an opinion. Among Republicans, the president's approval rating on the issue has dropped almost thirty points since April.

Fifty-one percent of those surveyed say the U.S. is doing the right thing by fighting the war in Afghanistan, a slight increase from last month. Thirty-nine percent say the country is not. Republicans are far more likely to say the U.S. is doing the right thing in Afghanistan than Democrats.

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Most Americans (57 percent) believe that the threat posed by Iran can be contained with diplomacy, the survey finds.

Nineteen percent, by contrast, believe the country requires immediate military action, an increase from 13 percent in February. Another 13 percent say Iran is not currently a threat, down six points from February.

Forty-three percent of Americans approve of how President Obama is handling Iran, while 35 percent disapprove. Another 22 percent aren't sure.

This poll was conducted from October 5th through 8th, before the announcement that President Obama was the winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

The president's overall approval rating remains at 56 percent.

Read the Complete Poll

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 829 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone October 5-8, 2009. Phone numbers were dialed from random digit dial samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.