Public Remains Split on Iraq

by Lydia Saad

No indication that early fighting in Najaf soured attitudes

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Negative assessments of the United States' involvement in Iraq continue to outweigh positive attitudes, but only by a slight margin. This finding is statistically similar to what Gallup found in June and July, but represents a slight improvement compared with early May. At that time, 58% of Americans disapproved of the way President George W. Bush was handling Iraq, 54% felt it was not worth going to war there, and 62% perceived that the situation there was going badly for the United States. Today, only 52% disapprove of Bush's handling of Iraq, 48% say the war was not worth it, and 53% believe things are going badly.

The Aug. 9-11 poll was conducted shortly after the outset of the latest conflagration in Iraq. A standoff between the new Iraqi government and U.S. forces and Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr that began on Aug. 5 has spawned fierce fighting in the Iraq city of Najaf in recent days. At the same time, U.S. troops and Iraqi forces have been fighting against insurgents in Baghdad and other sites around Iraq. But, the fact that Gallup sees little change in attitudes on Iraq between June/July and August suggests that the fighting in Najaf, at least in its early stages, has not influenced public opinion.

Until now, news coverage of Iraq had reportedly declined since the United States transferred governing authority to the Iraqis in late June. That may partly explain why the percentage of Americans mentioning Iraq as one of the top problems facing the United States dropped to 21% in early August, from 26% in July and 27% in June. Iraq now ties with general mentions of the economy as a top-of-mind issue for Americans, whereas in prior months Iraq had led on this measure. (However, when combining the economy and unemployment, mentions of these two key economic concerns still outweigh mentions of Iraq.)

Slightly Improved Iraq Assessment

Consistent with the drop in unaided mentions of Iraq as the nation's top problem, there has been a slight increase in the percentage of Americans saying things are going well for the United States in Iraq. According to the latest poll, 45% think things are going either very well or moderately well for the United States in Iraq, while 53% think things are going very badly or moderately badly. That's up from 40% saying "well" and down from the 59% saying "badly" last month.

This uptick in perceptions runs contrary to the trend in U.S. combat deaths in Iraq, however. According to estimates by CNN, there were more U.S. combat deaths in July than in June (48 vs. 36). And the rate of deaths in August thus far is even higher. Through Aug. 16, 27 have been killed by hostile fire, suggesting the monthly figure for August could surpass 50. 

Bush's Iraq Rating Fairly Stable

The latest poll finds 45% of Americans approving of the way Bush is handling the situation in Iraq and 52% disapproving. This is quite similar to the 42% approve/56% disapprove ratio he received in June, but is technically the most positive assessment of Bush's Iraq performance that Gallup has recorded since April.

The rub for Bush is that although he receives wide praise from Republicans on this measure -- 84% approve of his handling of Iraq and only 14% disapprove -- most independents (59%) as well as Democrats (86%) disapprove. Only 36% of independents and 11% of Democrats approve.

Americans remain closely split, as they were in July, over whether it was worth going to war in Iraq: 49% think it was worth going to war, while 48% disagree.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,017 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Aug. 9-11, 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.

13. Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

C. The situation in Iraq

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

%

%

%

2004 Aug 9-11

45

52

3

2004 Jun 21-23 ^

42

56

2

2004 Jun 3-6

41

57

2

2004 May 7-9 ^

41

58

1

2004 May 2-4

42

55

3

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

^ Asked of half sample.



41. Next, we'd like to ask you some questions about Iraq. All in all, do you think it was worth going to war in Iraq, or not?

BASED ON –499—NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

 

Worth
it

Not worth it

No
opinion

Worth
it

Not
worth it

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

%

2004 Aug 9-11 ^

49

48

3

2003 Dec 5-7 †

59

39

2

2004 Jul 8-11 ^

47

50

3

2003 Nov 14-16 †

56

42

2

2004 Jun 21-23 ^

46

51

3

2003 Nov 3-5 †

54

44

2

2004 Jun 3-6 ^

46

52

2

2003 Oct 24-26 †

54

44

2

2004 May 21-23

45

52

3

2003 Oct 6-8 †

55

44

1

2004 May 7-9 ^

44

54

2

2003 Sep 19-21 †

50

48

2

2004 May 2-4

50

47

3

2003 Sep 8-10 †

58

40

2

2004 Apr 16-18 ^

52

46

2

2003 Aug 25-26 †

63

35

2

2004 Apr 5-8

50

47

3

2003 Jul 25-27 †

63

34

3

2004 Mar 26-28

56

41

3

2003 Jul 18-20 †

63

35

2

2004 Mar 5-7

55

43

2

2003 Jun 27-29 †

56

42

2

2004 Jan 29-Feb 1

49

49

2

2003 Apr 14-16 †‡

73

23

4

2004 Jan 9-11

59

38

3

2003 Apr 9 †‡♠

76

19

5

2003 Dec 15-16 ^ †

65

33

2

2003 Apr 7-8 †‡

67

30

3

2003 Dec 14 †‡♠

62

33

5

2003 Mar 24-25 †‡

68

29

3

^

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.



42. In general, how would you say things are going for the U.S. in Iraq—[ROTATED: very well, moderately well, moderately badly, (or) very badly]?

BASED ON –499—NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

 

Very
well

Moderately well

Moderately badly

Very
badly

No
opinion

2004 Aug 9-11 †

5

40

28

25

2

2004 Jul 8-11

5

35

30

29

1

2004 Jun 3-6

6

34

35

25

*

2004 May 21-23

7

35

26

31

1

2004 May 2-4

4

33

32

30

1

2004 Apr 5-8

5

30

31

33

1

2004 Mar 5-7

9

46

28

15

2

2003 Nov 3-5 ^

4

34

34

27

1

2003 Oct 6-8 ^†

6

36

34

24

*

2003 Sep 8-10 ^

6

41

31

21

1

2003 Aug 25-26 ^

6

44

30

19

1

2003 Jul 25-27 ^

10

46

28

15

1

2003 Jul 18-20 ^

6

48

30

15

1

2003 Jun 27-29 ^

5

51

29

13

2

2003 May 30-Jun 1 ^

11

59

22

7

1

2003 May 5-7 ^†

30

56

10

3

1

2003 Apr 22-23 ^†

21

64

12

2

1

^

WORDING: How would you say things are going for the U.S. in Iraq now that the major fighting has ended – [ROTATED: very well, moderately well, moderately badly, (or) very badly]?

Asked of a half sample.



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