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Peace Sig:Pew Research on Iraq

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Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

War Support Slips, Fewer See Positive Outcome

New Poll Also Finds Growing Pessimism about Deficit, Rich-Poor Gap

FigurePublic support for the war in Iraq continues to decline, as a growing number of political independents are turning against the war. Overall, a 53% majority of Americans believe the U.S. should bring its troops home as soon as possible – up five points in the past month and the highest percentage favoring a troop pullout since the war began nearly four years ago.

Confidence in a successful outcome in Iraq, which remained fairly high last year even as perceptions of the situation grew negative, also has eroded. The public is now evenly divided over whether the U.S. is likely to achieve its goals in Iraq – 47% believe it will definitely or probably succeed, while 46% disagree. Three months ago, 53% saw success as at least probable and 41% disagreed.

The latest nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Feb. 7-11 among 1,509 Americans, paints a bleak picture of public opinion about the war. Fully two-thirds of Americans (67%) say things are not going well with the U.S. military effort in Iraq, and solid majorities say the U.S. is losing ground in preventing a civil war (68%), reducing civilian casualties (66%), and defeating the insurgents militarily (55%).

FigureIn recent surveys, independents had been fairly evenly split over whether to bring the troops home. In January, 47% favored a troop withdrawal while 49% said the troops should remain in Iraq until the situation there is stabilized. But in the current survey, 55% of independents say they favor bringing the troops home as soon as possible, compared with 40% who believe the troops should remain. More Democrats also support a troop withdrawal than did so in January (74% now, 66% then). By contrast, Republicans have been unwavering in their support for keeping the troops in Iraq. By roughly three-to-one (71%-23%), Republicans believe that U.S. forces should remain in Iraq until the situation there is stable, which is nearly identical to opinion among Republicans in January.

While support is increasing for bringing the troops home as soon as possible, most Americans still do not favor an immediate troop pull-out. When asked if the U.S. should remove all troops immediately or gradually over the next year or two, most of those who support a troop pullout – 35% of the general public – say the drawdown should be gradual; just 16% want the troops brought home immediately.

FigureIn recent weeks, the Bush administration also has highlighted the increasing threat posed by Iran, both because of its nuclear program and its reported support for anti-U.S. insurgents in Iraq. But public perceptions of the Iranian threat have not increased over the past year. Currently, a quarter of Americans volunteer Iran as the country representing the "greatest danger" to the U.S., the highest percentage naming any single country. In February 2006, a comparable number (27%) cited Iran as the greatest threat to the U.S. And the public is split evenly over whether it is more important for the U.S. to take a firm stand against Iranian actions or to try to avoid a military conflict with Iran (43% each).

FigureWhile public perceptions of the situation in Iraq have deteriorated, there also is pessimism about the progress being achieved on a number of domestic issues. Across a series of 10 problem areas from the budget deficit to corruption to the environment, more Americans say the country is losing ground than believe it is making progress. The only issue on which there is a divided verdict is international terrorism; even here, more say the country is losing ground (38%) than say it is making progress (30%). On every other issue polled, the gap between those who say the country is making progress and losing ground is at least 20 percentage points. The greatest pessimism is expressed about the federal budget deficit (64% say the U.S. is losing ground) and the gap between rich and poor (63% losing ground). Nearly as many say the country is losing ground on the way the health care system is working (60%) and on the issue of illegal immigration (59%).

Read the full report at people-press.org

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