Religion and Social Trends

Public Support Persists Despite Hardships in Iraq

Significant increase in backing for additional troops

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Despite the rising death toll of American fighting men and women in Iraq and continued news coverage of insurrection and anger against Americans in that country, a majority of Americans remain convinced that U.S. involvement in Iraq has been worth it so far, and that sending troops there was not a mistake. And, while a majority of Americans believe that U.S. troop levels in Iraq should either be kept the same or reduced, the percentage who feel that more U.S. troops should be sent to Iraq has increased significantly over the last two weeks.

These findings, from a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted April 16-18, suggest that there has been no diminution of resolve among Americans in the wake of the violence in Iraq. While some observers have hypothesized that recent developments in Iraq would lead to a lessening of support for the Bush administration and its policies there, it appears that this has not materialized to this point. Not only have support levels for U.S. involvement in Iraq stayed constant, but other measures of support for President Bush have also remained stable or increased.

Send More Troops?

Gallup Polls have asked Americans eight times since August of last year if the United States should send more troops to Iraq, keep the number of troops as it is now, withdraw some troops from Iraq, or withdraw all of its troops.

Send More Troops, Keep the Number of Troops the Same, Withdraw Some, or Withdraw All Troops?

Thirty-three percent now say that the United States should send more troops. Although this is still a distinctly minority position, it's the highest Gallup has measured to date. It's also up 13 percentage points from early April. A quarter of Americans say that troop levels should be kept as is, while another 37% say that either some or all troops should be withdrawn.

Send More Troops, Keep the Number of Troops the Same, Withdraw Some, or Withdraw All Troops?
April 16-18, 2004

The significance of this change in attitudes toward troop levels in Iraq is made perhaps more evident in the following table, which displays the net difference between the percentage of Americans who want troops withdrawn and the percentage who want the troop levels to be increased:

 

Views of Iraq:
Send more troops, or withdraw troops?

 

Send more troops

Withdraw some or all troops

Net
(% "withdraw" minus % "send more" -- in pct. pts.)

Is war worth it?

%

%

%

April 16-18

33

37

4

52

April 5-8

20

46

26

50

Jan 2-5

11

45

34

59^

Dec 15-16

14

42

28

65

Dec 5-7

22

42

20

59

Nov 3-5

17

48

31

54

Oct 24-26

14

57

43

54

Aug 25-26

15

46

31

63

^ Jan. 9-11 Gallup Poll

It is clear that sentiment on what to do about troop levels in Iraq is not a straightforward correlate of respondents' basic positions on the war. Note in the above table that the net sentiment in favor of sending more troops increased significantly from the early to mid-April polls. The percentage saying that the war was worth it, however, remained essentially constant.

Additionally, even though supporters of presumed Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry are much less likely to say that military action in Iraq was worth it than is the case for Bush supporters, one-fourth of those who say they will vote for Kerry next November still say that more troops should be sent to Iraq. This may not be surprising, given that Kerry and other leaders have publicly discussed the possible necessity of sending in more troops to Iraq at this point.

There is additional evidence in this poll suggesting that the public supports a more aggressive approach in Iraq (there has been little change in this sentiment compared to a CNN/Time poll conducted earlier this month):

Which comes closer to your view about the recent attacks against U.S. soldiers and civilians in Iraq -- [ROTATED: they show that the U.S. policy in Iraq is not working and the U.S. should begin to reduce its military efforts in that country, (or) they show that the U.S. must intensify its military efforts in Iraq in order to achieve its goals]?

 

Policy
not working

Must intensify
military efforts

No
opinion

2004 Apr 16-18

35%

58

7

Here, as can be seen, the American public comes down by almost a 2-to-1 ratio in favor of the "intensify its military efforts in Iraq" alternative, as opposed to the "policy not working" option, although the former is perhaps made more attractive to respondents by virtue of its including an explicit goal for that action ("in order to achieve its goals").

Indeed, there is a similarly strong sentiment on the part of the public that it will be necessary to keep troops in Iraq even after the planned June 30 turnover of power to an Iraqi-based government:

As you may know, the United States intends to turn over authority to a civilian government in Iraq on June 30th. Which comes closer to your view -- [ROTATED: the U.S. will have fulfilled its obligation to Iraq on June 30th and should remove its troops shortly after that, (or) the U.S. should keep its troops in Iraq well beyond June 30th to make sure the new government succeeds]?

 

Fulfilled obligation to Iraq on June 30th

Should keep troops well beyond June 30th

No
opinion

2004 Apr 16-18

35%

61

4

Bush Job Approval on Iraq

The American public's approval of the way in which George W. Bush is handling the situation in Iraq has remained relatively constant over the last two and a half months. Bush's job approval rating on Iraq is now at 48%, compared with 51% in late March and 46% in late January/early February.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the situation in Iraq?

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

%

%

%

2004 Apr 16-18

48

49

3

2004 Mar 26-28

51

47

2

2004 Jan 29-Feb 1

46

53

1

2004 Jan 2-5

61

36

3

2003 Dec 5-7

50

47

3

2003 Nov 3-5

45

54

1

2003 Oct 6-8

47

50

3

2003 Sep 8-10

51

47

2

2003 Aug 25-26

57

41

2

2003 Jul 25-27

60

38

2

2003 Jul 18-20

57

39

4

2003 Jul 7-9

58

39

3

2003 Jun 12-15

63

34

3

2003 Apr 14-16

76

21

3

2003 Mar 29-30

71

27

2

2003 Mar 24-25

71

26

3

2003 Mar 14-15

56

41

3

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

54

42

4

2003 Jan 3-5

55

40

5

2002 Dec 9-10

55

39

6

2002 Oct 21-22

52

40

8

Worth Going to War Over?

One of the fundamental Gallup measures of public opinion on the situation in Iraq is a question that asks whether the situation there was worth going to war over, or not.

This question has been asked in 24 separate Gallup Polls since January 2003. The percentage saying "yes" has ranged from a low of 49% (in late January and early February of this year -- in the middle of the Democratic primaries) to a high of 76% on April 9 of last year -- just after the fall of Baghdad.

Worth Going to War in Iraq?

The current "worth it" reading is 52% -- up a slight 2 points from early April, and down slightly from two readings in the mid-50% range in March. In the most general sense, it is clear that everything that has happened recently in Iraq has done little to alter the basic views of the American public on the rationale for being involved in that country militarily. Americans are roughly split, with a slight majority saying that it was worth it to go to war in Iraq, but with almost as many (46%) saying that it was not.

Another Vietnam?

There has been a good deal of discussion of the comparability of the U.S. involvement in Iraq with the Vietnam War. In both instances, U.S. military action ran into trouble, there were calls for increased military strength, and protests against U.S. involvement began to be heard both domestically and internationally.

Gallup measured public opinion on U.S. involvement in Vietnam with a variety of questions during the 1960s and 1970s. One extensively used measure asked, "In view of the developments since we entered the fighting in Vietnam, do you think the U.S. made a mistake sending troops to fight in Vietnam?"

We updated that question for Iraq and have asked it of Americans six times over the last year.

A Mistake to Send Troops to Vietnam?
A Mistake to Send Troops to Iraq?

As can be seen, the majority of Americans still contend that U.S. involvement in Iraq was not a mistake, by a 57% to 42% margin. This is little changed across four separate measurement points since October -- but clearly more negative than the positive reactions measured in March 2003, as the war got underway, and in July.

The plurality of Americans in similar fashion felt that Vietnam was not a mistake in polls conducted in 1965, 1966, and in the first nine months of 1967. At that point, however, the "mistake"/"not a mistake" lines crossed for the first time (with 47% saying that it was a mistake). By August 1968, a majority of Americans said that the war in Vietnam had been a mistake.

The current sentiment on Iraq is obviously not yet near that level of opposition.

The most recent poll asked Americans how likely they thought it was that the situation in Iraq could turn into another Vietnam:

How likely do you think it is that the war in Iraq will turn into a situation like the United States faced in the Vietnam War -- very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not at all likely?

 

Very
likely

Somewhat likely

Not too likely

Not at all likely

No
opinion

2004 Apr 16-18

23%

28

25

20

4

A little more than half say it is at least somewhat likely. There are significant differences in this perception by partisan identification. Over two-thirds of Democrats say it is likely that Iraq will be another Vietnam, including 35% who say it is very likely. Republicans, on the other hand, are overwhelmingly likely to reject the Vietnam analogy:

How likely do you think it is that the war in Iraq will turn into a situation like the United States faced in the Vietnam War?

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,003 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 16-18, 2004. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 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.

17. All in all, do you think it was worth going to war in Iraq, or not?

BASED ON -- 490 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

 

Worth
going to war

Not worth
going to war

No
opinion

%

%

%

2004 Apr 16-18 ^

52

46

2

2004 Apr 5-8

50

47

3

2004 Mar 26-28

56

41

3

2004 Mar 5-7

55

43

2

2004 Jan 29-Feb 1

49

49

2

2004 Jan 9-11

59

38

3

2003 Dec 15-16 ^ †

65

33

2

2003 Dec 14 †‡?

62

33

5

2003 Dec 5-7 †

59

39

2

2003 Nov 14-16 †

56

42

2

2003 Nov 3-5 †

54

44

2

2003 Oct 24-26 †

54

44

2

2003 Oct 6-8 †

55

44

1

2003 Sep 19-21 †

50

48

2

2003 Sep 8-10 †

58

40

2

2003 Aug 25-26 †

63

35

2

2003 Jul 25-27 †

63

34

3

2003 Jul 18-20 †

63

35

2

2003 Jun 27-29 †

56

42

2

2003 Apr 14-16 †‡

73

23

4

2003 Apr 9 †‡?

76

19

5

2003 Apr 7-8 †‡

67

30

3

2003 Mar 24-25 †‡

68

29

3

2003 Jan 3-5 †‡

53

42

5

^

Asked of a half sample.

WORDING: All in all, do you think the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over, or not?

WORDING: All in all, do you think the current situation in Iraq is worth going to war over, or not?

?

Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.

Trends for Comparison:

 

Worth
going to war

Not worth
going to war

No
opinion

%

%

%

1998 Feb 20-22

57

36

7

Persian Gulf War

1991 Jan 30-Feb 2 ^

71

24

5

1991 Jan 11-13 †

46

44

10

1991 Jan 3-6 †

47

44

9

1990 Dec 13-16 †

49

44

7

1990 Dec 6-9 †

47

45

8

1990 Nov 29-Dec 2 †

51

41

8

1990 Nov 15-18 †

46

45

9

1990 Sep 27-30 †

49

41

10

1990 Aug 30-Sep 2 †

45

44

11

1990 Aug 23-26 †

49

41

10

^

All in all, do you think the situation in the Middle East involving Iraq and Kuwait is worth going to war over, or not?

All in all, is the current situation in the Mideast is worth going to war over, or not?

18. 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?

BASED ON -- 513 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

 


Yes


No

No opinion

%

%

%

Iraq

2004 Apr 16-18

42

57

1

2004 Jan 12-15

42

56

2

2003 Nov 3-5

39

60

1

2003 Oct 6-8

40

59

1

2003 Jul 7-9

27

72

1

2003 Mar 24-25

23

75

2

Afghanistan

2002 Jan 7-9

6

93

1

2001 Nov 8-11

9

89

2

Yugoslavia

1999 Jun 4-5

43

53

4

1999 Apr 21

42

51

7

Persian Gulf War

1991 Jul 18-21

15

82

3

1991 Feb 28-Mar 3

10

87

3

1991 Feb 7-10

21

76

3

1991 Jan 30-Feb 2

18

80

2

1991 Jan 23-26

18

77

5

1991 Jan 17-20

16

80

4

1991 Jan 11-13

29

65

6

1991 Jan 3-6

30

61

9

1990 Dec 6-9

28

66

6

1990 Nov 29-Dec 2

29

66

5

1990 Nov 15-18

27

65

8

1990 Nov 8-11

27

68

5

1990 Nov 2-4

25

67

8

1990 Oct 25-28

24

71

5

1990 Oct 18-21

26

67

7

1990 Oct 11-14

27

68

5

1990 Oct 3-4

21

71

8

1990 Sep 27-30

20

73

7

1990 Sep 14-16

18

73

10

1990 Sep 10-11

19

76

5

1990 Aug 30-Sep 2

16

76

8

1990 Aug 23-26

18

76

6

1990 Aug 16-19

17

75

8


Yes


No

No opinion

Vietnam War

%

%

%

2000 Nov 13-15

69

24

7

1995 Apr 21-24

71

23

6

1990 Mar 15-18

74

22

4

1973 Jan 12-15

60

29

11

1971 May 14-17

61

28

11

1971 Jan 8-11

60

31

9

1970 May 21-26

56

36

8

1970 Apr 2-7

51

34

15

1970 Jan 15-20

57

32

11

1969 Sep 17-22

58

32

10

1969 Jan 23-28

52

39

9

1968 Sep 26-Oct 1

54

37

9

1968 Aug 7-12

53

35

12

1968 Apr 4-9

48

40

12

1968 Feb 22-27

49

42

9

1968 Feb 1-6

46

42

12

1967 Dec 7-12

45

46

9

1967 Oct 6-11

47

44

9

1967 Jul 13-18

41

48

11

1967 Apr 19-24

37

50

13

1967 Jan 26-31

32

52

16

1966 Nov 10-15

31

52

17

1966 Sep 8-13

35

48

17

1966 May 5-10

36

49

15

1966 Mar 3-8

26

59

15

1965 Aug 27-Sep 1

24

60

16

Korean War

2000 Jun 6-7

34

47

19

1953 Jan 11-16

36

50

14

1952 Oct 17-22

43

37

19

1952 Oct 9-14

43

37

20

1952 Feb 28-Mar 5

51

35

14

1951 Aug 3-8

42

48

11

1951 Jun 16-21

43

40

17

1951 Apr 16-21

37

45

18

1951 Mar 26-31

45

43

12

1951 Feb 4-9

49

41

9

1951 Jan 1-5

49

38

13

1950 Aug 20-25

20

65

15

Q.18 (MISTAKE SENDING TROOPS TO IRAQ) CONTINUED

 

AFGHANISTAN WORDING: Do you think the United States made a mistake in sending military forces to Afghanistan, or not?

YUGOSLAVIA WORDING: In view of the developments since we entered the fighting in Yugoslavia, do you think the United States made a mistake sending military forces to fight in Yugoslavia?

PERSIAN GULF WAR WORDING (Feb. 28-Mar 3, 1991-Jul. 18-21, 1991): In view of the developments since we first sent our troops to the Persian Gulf region, do you think the United States made a mistake in sending troops to the Persian Gulf region, or not?

PERSIAN GULF WAR WORDING (Aug. 16-19, 1990-Feb. 7-10, 1990): In view of the developments since we first sent our troops to Saudi Arabia, do you think the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Saudi Arabia, or not?

VIETNAM WAR WORDING (1990-2000): Looking back, do you think the United States made a mistake sending troops to fight in Vietnam?

VIETNAM WAR WORDING (1965-1973): In view of the developments since we entered the fighting in Vietnam, do you think the U.S. made a mistake sending troops to fight in Vietnam?

KOREAN WAR WORDING (2000): Based on what you have heard or read, do you think the United States made a mistake in going into the war in Korea, or not?

KOREAN WAR WORDING (Feb. 1951-Jan. 1953): Do you think the United States made a mistake in going into the war in Korea, or not?

KOREAN WAR WORDING (Aug. 1950-Jan. 1951): In view of the developments since we entered the fighting in Korea, do you think the United States made a mistake in deciding to defend Korea, or not?

19. Which comes closest to your view about what the U.S. should now do about the number of U.S. troops in Iraq -- [ROTATED: the U.S. should send more troops to Iraq, the U.S. should keep the number of troops as it is now, the U.S. should withdraw some troops from Iraq, (or) the U.S. should withdraw all of its troops from Iraq]?

 

Send more troops

Keep as
it is now

Withdraw some troops

Withdraw
all troops

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2004 Apr 16-18

33

25

16

21

5

2004 Apr 5-8

20

29

18

28

5

2004 Jan 2-5

11

40

29

16

4

2003 Dec 15-16

14

40

27

15

4

2003 Dec 5-7

22

33

25

17

3

2003 Nov 3-5 ^

17

32

29

19

3

2003 Oct 24-26 ^

14

27

39

18

2

2003 Aug 25-26 ^

15

36

32

14

3

^ WORDING: Which comes closest to your view about what the U.S. should now do about the number of U.S. troops in Iraq -- [ROTATED: the U.S. should send more troops to Iraq, the U.S. should keep the number of troops as it is now, the U.S. should begin to withdraw some troops from Iraq, (or) the U.S. should withdraw all of its troops from Iraq]?

20. If President Bush decides to send more troops to Iraq, would you be upset, or not?

COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.19-20)

 

2004 Apr 16-18

%

No, not upset

57

(Think U.S. should send more troops)

(33)

(Do not think U.S. should send more troops)

(24)

Yes, upset

38

No opinion

5

21. Do you think the United States will -- or will not -- be able to establish a stable democratic government in Iraq?

 

Yes, will

No, will not

No opinion

2004 Apr 16-18

37%

57

6

22. Which comes closer to your view about the recent attacks against U.S. soldiers and civilians in Iraq -- [ROTATED: they show that the U.S. policy in Iraq is not working and the U.S. should begin to reduce its military efforts in that country, (or) they show that the U.S. must intensify its military efforts in Iraq in order to achieve its goals]?

 

Policy
not working

Must intensify
military efforts

No
opinion

2004 Apr 16-18

35%

58

7

Trend for Comparison: CNN-Time Poll: And which of the following statements comes closer to your view of the recent attacks: a) They show that the U.S. is unlikely to achieve its goals in Iraq and should begin to reduce its military efforts in that country; or b) They show that the U.S. must intensify its military efforts in Iraq in order to achieve its goals?

 

Policy
unlikely to work

Must intensify
military efforts

No
opinion

2004 Apr 8

36%

57

7

23. As you may know, the United States intends to turn over authority to a civilian government in Iraq on June 30th. Which comes closer to your view -- [ROTATED: the U.S. will have fulfilled its obligation to Iraq on June 30th and should remove its troops shortly after that, (or) the U.S. should keep its troops in Iraq well beyond June 30th to make sure the new government succeeds]?

 

Fulfilled obligation to Iraq on June 30th

Should keep troops well beyond June 30th

No
opinion

2004 Apr 16-18

35%

61

4

24. How likely do you think it is that the war in Iraq will turn into a situation like the United States faced in the Vietnam War -- very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not at all likely?

 

Very
likely

Somewhat likely

Not too likely

Not at all likely

No
opinion

2004 Apr 16-18

23%

28

25

20

4

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/11446/Public-Support-Persists-Despite-Hardships-Iraq.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030