Public Continues to Favor Timetable for Iraq Withdrawal

by Joseph Carroll

About 4 in 10 support keeping troops in Iraq as long as necessary

PRINCETON, NJ -- Recent Gallup Polls have found about 4 in 10 Americans advocating that the United States keep its troops in Iraq as long as necessary until the situation there gets better. But that does not mean most Americans necessarily want a quick exit from Iraq. While the majority continue to support setting a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops, most of those favor a gradual withdrawal. Part of the reason Americans prefer a more gradual withdrawal could be that most do not have a lot of confidence in the Iraqi government to accomplish the goals the United States has laid out for Iraq. The vast majority of Americans do say Iraq will be better off in the long run as a result of the U.S. invasion.

Most Americans Continue to Support a Timetable for Removing Troops From Iraq

The Nov. 30-Dec. 2, 2007, poll finds that 59% of Americans say it is better for the United States to set a timetable for removing troops from Iraq and to stick to that timetable regardless of what is going on in Iraq at that time, while 38% say it is better to keep a significant number of troops in Iraq until the situation there improves, even if that takes many years. These results have shown little fluctuation this year (results were more mixed in 2005).

Just 17% of Americans support removing all U.S. troops from Iraq as rapidly as possible, beginning now; the plurality, 42%, support setting a timetable that calls for a more gradual withdrawal of troops. These results are consistent with what Gallup found earlier this year.

Perhaps one reason Americans tend to support a more gradual troop withdrawal involves concerns about the Iraqi government's ability to control the situation there once U.S. troops leave. According to the new poll, just 32% of Americans express confidence that the Iraqi government will meet the goals the United States has laid out for Iraq. Two in three Americans have little or no confidence.

Hope for the Future?

Even though Americans are generally negative about the status of the war right now, the vast majority believe Iraq will be better off in the long run -- 71% say the country will be better off as a result of the U.S. invasion, while 24% say it will be worse off. These results are similar to those measured last year.

Americans' Advice to the Government About U.S. Troop Withdrawal

In order to better understand what Americans want to happen regarding U.S. troops in Iraq, Gallup's Nov. 26-29, 2007, Panel poll asked Americans an open-ended question about what advice they would give -- in their own words, without prompting -- to President Bush and Congress about how long to keep U.S. troops in Iraq. The results to this question are in the accompanying table.

As the table shows, 35% of Americans say the troops should stay until the job is done or until the United States wins, while 29% say the troops should be removed immediately. Eleven percent say the troops should be withdrawn as soon as possible, and 5% endorse a gradual withdrawal. About one in six Americans advise a specific time period -- 11% within the next year, 4% between one and two years, and 1% three years or longer.

Republicans and Democrats differ significantly in what they would advise the president and Congress to do about U.S. troops in Iraq: the vast majority of Republicans say the troops should stay until the job is done or until the United States wins, while Democrats most frequently say the troops should be removed immediately.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,006 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Nov. 30-Dec. 2, 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.

Results for this panel study are based on telephone interviews with 1,003 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Nov. 26-29, 2007. Respondents were drawn from Gallup's household panel, which was originally recruited through random selection methods. The final sample is weighted so it is representative of U.S. adults nationwide. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 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.

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