Americans Expect Security in Iraq to Worsen After Pullout

by Lydia Saad

While 58% say security will worsen, only 27% expect it to get “a lot” worse

PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup polling conducted on June 30, the deadline for U.S. forces to withdraw from urban areas of Iraq, finds Americans largely pessimistic about the likely impact of this change. Overall, 58% of Americans believe the security situation in Iraq will worsen now that much of it is in the hands of Iraqi security forces; only 36% believe security will stay the same or improve.


Republicans -- who, among partisan groups, have long been the most supportive of U.S. military intervention in Iraq -- are the most likely to believe security in Iraq will worsen, but even close to half of Democrats feel this way.


According to the detailed responses, Americans who believe deterioration in Iraqi security will follow the recent U.S. pullout are closely divided in their perceptions of how severe it will be. About 3 in 10 Americans say security will get a little worse while 27% say it will get a lot worse. Very few -- only 4% -- believe it will get a lot better.


Late last year, the Iraqi parliament voted to approve the Status of Forces Agreement reached between President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that established a time frame for the gradual reduction of U.S. military involvement in that country. The June 30 deadline for withdrawal of U.S. forces from major cities and towns represents the first phase of that build-down. The agreement calls for the removal of all U.S. troops from all areas of Iraq by December 31, 2011.

Despite the timely implementation of Phase 1, only 27% of Americans believe the complete withdrawal will happen by the 2011 deadline. Democrats (35% of whom expect that deadline to be met) are only slightly more confident about this withdrawal than are Republicans and independents (22% each).


Americans who believe security in Iraq will improve are only slightly more likely to be confident the U.S. will be out on time in 2011 than are those who think security will worsen.


Bottom Line

Americans have been waiting a long time for the United States to pull out of Iraq. Gallup polling as far back as June 2005 found a majority of U.S. adults (51%) saying they favored a timetable for removing U.S. troops from Iraq, rather than maintaining forces there indefinitely. By September 2007, that figure was 60%, and it remained 60% in Gallup's last measure in February 2008.

Gallup polling that month also found 65% of Americans saying the U.S. has an obligation to establish a "reasonable level of stability and security" in Iraq before leaving. With violence in Iraq generally trending downward and the January elections there having gone smoothly, Americans no doubt welcome this week's milestone. However, even though the United States has thus far lived up to its part of the security pact with Iraq by withdrawing forces from urban areas and turning security there over to the Iraqis, most Americans are skeptical that the full withdrawal will occur on time.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,011 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted June 30, 2009, as part of Gallup Poll Daily tracking. 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.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

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.

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.
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