Much has transpired in the year since the coalition attack on Iraq. Although President George Bush declared victory last spring, American military casualties have continued, and the fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been found has put the Bush administration on the defensive about the rationale for war. Despite the uncertainties surrounding the current situation in Iraq, a majority of American teenagers are still supportive of the war.
Most Teens Feel Situation in Iraq Worth Going to War Over
The most recent Gallup Youth Survey, conducted between Jan. 22 and March 9*, asked teens whether they believe that the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of respondents agreed that the situation was worth going to war over, while 37% said it was not. Among U.S. adults, the percentage saying they feel the war was worthwhile has fluctuated somewhat in recent months, from 65% in mid-December to 49% at the end of January to 55% in early March.
The percentage of teens who see the war as "worth it" is close to the number who supported the idea of military action in the weeks leading up to the war. In a Gallup Youth Survey conducted in January and February 2003, shortly before the start of the Iraq war, 58% of teens said they favored "invading Iraq with U.S. ground troops in an attempt to remove Saddam Hussein from power."
Teens' current support for the war varies substantially by race -- 69% of white teens feel the situation was worth going to war over, as do just 49% of nonwhite teens. Not surprisingly, political leanings strongly influence teens' views on the war as well. Eighty-five percent of teens who say they plan to vote Republican when they are old enough believe the situation was worth going to war over, while less than half that percentage of Democratic teens (41%) feel the same. Teens who plan to vote as independents fall directly in the middle, at 62%.
Older teens -- who are probably more aware of political and world events than younger teens are -- are more hesitant to condone the war in Iraq. Sixty-seven percent of 13- to 15-year-olds believe that the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over, compared with 54% of 16- and 17-year-olds.
Teens Divided on Iraq War's Effect on Terrorism
Although most teens feel that the war in Iraq was worth it, fewer believe that the war has accomplished one of the main objectives that Bush put forth before the attack -- making the United States safer from terrorism. A plurality (37%) of teens said that the United States is safer because of the war, but a substantial number -- 28% -- feel that it has actually made the United States less safe, and a third (33%) of teens think that the war in Iraq has not affected U.S. safety from terrorism either way.
Demographic patterns similar to those on the question of whether the war was worth it emerge on the question of whether the war has made the United States safer. White teens are more likely than nonwhite teens to believe the war has made the United States safer from terrorism (45% vs. 23%); younger teens are more likely than older teens to feel the United States is safer (44% vs. 27%); and Republican teens (63%) are significantly more likely than Democratic (24%) or independent (30%) teens to think the United States is safer.
*The Gallup Youth Survey is conducted via an Internet methodology provided by Knowledge Networks, using an online research panel that is designed to be representative of the entire U.S. population. The current questionnaire was completed by 785 respondents, aged 13 to 17, between Jan. 22 and March 9, 2004. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.