Public: Situation in Iraq Getting Worse for U.S.

by Frank Newport

Six in ten say war was a mistake

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The majority of Americans believe the situation in Iraq is getting worse for the United States rather than better, and 6 out of 10 say U.S. involvement in the war was a mistake. Although attitudes about the war in Iraq remain highly partisan, as they have been since its inception more than four years ago, well under half of Republicans at this point say the war is getting better. Only slightly more than half of Americans are aware that the United States is planning to begin removing troops from Iraq during the next several months.

Better or Worse?

The Bush administration and other Republicans recently began talking up progress in Iraq, partially in reaction to the harsh comments about the situation in Iraq by retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. White House Press Secretary Dana Perino recently said, "I think that, by any measure, if you look at Iraq today, where we've been because of the surge -- where we've come because of the surge, we're in a much better place today." Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell said on ABC's "This Week" this past Sunday, "I think the vast majority of people who are unhappy about the war, are unhappy about it because they don't think it's been handled very well, and they now look at it and see we're actually making progress toward having an acceptable conclusion."

A new USAToday/Gallup poll finds relatively few Americans agree with these assessments -- at least in response to a general question asking Americans' views about whether the situation in Iraq is getting better or getting worse for the United States.

This question wording did not explain to the respondents exactly what reference point to use in answering. It may be that some respondents are taking a broad time perspective and answering in terms of a comparison to the beginning of the war more than four years ago. Other questions asking only about the impact of the recent "surge" in Iraq may obtain different response patterns. But, the responses to this general wording show that only 16% of Americans say the situation in Iraq for the United States is getting better, about one-third of respondents say it is staying about the same, and a majority say that the situation is getting worse.

Even Republicans are apparently not able to generate much enthusiasm for the proposition that the situation in Iraq is getting better for the United States.

While only 27% of Republicans say the situation for the United States in Iraq is getting worse, only one-third say it is getting better, and the rest say it is the same. Democrats are much more negative, as would be predicted in this highly partisan environment; three-quarters say things are getting worse for the United States in Iraq. The attitudes of independents are somewhere in between.

Iraq War a Mistake?

Gallup has asked Americans since the war began in March 2003 whether or not they believe the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq. The latest results from the Oct. 12-14, 2007, poll show that 60% of Americans believe U.S. involvement in the war was a mistake. This is within 2 percentage points of being the highest on record; 62% of Americans said the war was a mistake in July 2007.

Although there have been fluctuations in responses to this question from March 2003 to today, at least a majority of Americans have said the United States' decision to send troops to Iraq was a mistake since December 2005, with the exception of one survey in September 2006. A majority of Americans first said the war was a mistake a little more than a year after the war began, in June 2004.

Belief that U.S. involvement in Iraq was a mistake is highly related to views about current progress for the United States in the war.

More than 7 in 10 Americans who say the war was a mistake also say things are getting worse for the United States in Iraq. But even among those who do not believe the war was a mistake, only 36% say the war is getting better for the United States at this point, while 40% say it is staying the same and 23% believe it is getting worse.

Awareness

The poll asked Americans about their knowledge of changes in the status of U.S. troop levels in Iraq. In fact, the United States is beginning to draw down the number of troops in Iraq, with reported plans to reduce the number to 130,000 by summer 2008. But only about half of Americans are apparently aware of these plans; the rest either think the number of U.S. troops in Iraq is increasing or being kept the same.

Based on what you have heard or read, over the next few months, is the United States planning to -- [ROTATED: increase the number of troops it has in Iraq, keep the number of troops the same, or decrease the number of troops it has in Iraq]?

           

Increase

Keep the same

Decrease

No opinion

2007 Oct 12-14

17%

27

52

4

(Some of the controversy regarding current administration plans in Iraq lies with an interpretation of whether or not dropping troop levels back to the point where they were before the surge is a "real" reduction or not. It is possible that some individuals who were aware of the current reductions still answered that the troop levels are being "kept the same" -- for that reason.)

Public awareness that the United States is beginning to decrease the number of troops in Iraq is somewhat related to opinions about how the war in Iraq is going for the United States.

The small percentage of Americans who think the United States is increasing troop levels are significantly more likely to say things are getting worse for the United States in Iraq. It is unclear whether or not the high levels of pessimism on the part of these individuals are driven by their view that troop levels are increasing, or whether or not their pessimism about the direction of the war causes them to perceive things are going poorly.

About half of those who either say the number of troops is staying the same or decreasing still perceive the war is getting worse for the United States in Iraq.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,009 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 12-14, 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

For results based on the 507 national adults in the Form A half-sample and 502 national adults in the Form B half-sample, the maximum margins of sampling error are ±5 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

30. In view of the developments since we first sent our troops to Iraq, do you think the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq, or not?

           

Yes,
a mistake

No,
Not

No
opinion

Yes,
a
mistake

No,
not

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Oct 12-14

60

37

2

2005 Sep 16-18

59

39

2

 

 

 

2005 Sep 8-11

53

46

1

2007 Sep 14-16

58

41

1

2005 Aug 28-30

53

46

1

2007 Sep 7-8

54

44

2

2005 Aug 5-7 ^

54

44

2

2007 Aug 3-5

57

42

2

2005 Jul 22-24

46

53

1

2007 Jul 6-8

62

36

2

2005 Jun 24-26

53

46

1

2007 Jun 1-3

56

40

4

2005 Apr 29-May 1 ^

49

48

3

2007 May 4-6

58

40

2

2005 Mar 18-20 ^

46

51

3

2007 Apr 13-15

57

41

2

2005 Feb 25-27

47

51

2

2007 Mar 23-25

56

43

2

2005 Feb 4-6

45

55

*

2007 Mar 2-4 

59

39

2

2005 Jan 14-16

52

47

1

2007 Feb 9-11

56

42

2

2005 Jan 7-9

50

48

2

2007 Jan 12-14

58

41

2

2004 Nov 19-21

47

51

2

2007 Jan 5-7

57

41

2

2004 Oct 29-31 ^

44

52

4

2006 Dec 8-10 ^

53

45

2

2004 Oct 22-24

47

51

2

2006 Nov 2-5

55

40

5

2004 Oct 14-16

47

52

1

2006 Oct 20-22

58

40

2

2004 Oct 9-10 ^

46

53

1

2006 Oct 6-8

56

40

4

2004 Oct 1-3

48

51

1

2006 Sep 15-17

49

49

2

2004 Sep 24-26

42

55

3

2006 Jul 28-30

54

45

2

2004 Sep 3-5 ^

38

57

5

2006 Jul 21-23

56

41

2

2004 Aug 23-25 ^

48

50

2

2006 Jun 23-25

55

43

1

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

47

51

2

2006 Jun 9-11

51

46

2

2004 Jul 19-21

50

47

3

2006 Apr 7-9

57

42

1

2004 Jul 8-11 ^

54

45

1

2006 Mar 10-12 ^

57

42

1

2004 Jun 21-23 ^

54

44

2

2006 Feb 28-Mar 1

55

43

2

2004 Jun 3-6 ^

41

58

1

2006 Feb 9-12 ^

55

42

3

2004 May 7-9 ^

44

54

2

2006 Jan 20-22

51

46

3

2004 Apr 16-18 ^

42

57

1

2006 Jan 6-8 ^

50

47

3

2004 Jan 12-15 ^

42

56

2

2005 Dec 16-18

52

46

2

2003 Nov 3-5 ^

39

60

1

2005 Dec 9-11

48

50

2

2003 Oct 6-8 ^

40

59

1

2005 Nov 11-13 ^

54

45

1

2003 Jul 7-9 ^

27

72

1

2005 Oct 28-30

54

45

1

2003 Mar 24-25 ^

23

75

2

2005 Oct 21-23

49

49

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

^ Asked of a half sample

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