Politics

Majority of Americans Favor Obama's Afghanistan Timetable

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Opponents generally reject idea of setting any timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops

PRINCETON, NJ -- A majority of Americans (58%) favor President Barack Obama's timetable that calls for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan beginning in July 2011. Most of the 38% of Americans who are opposed reject the idea of setting any timetable rather than setting one with an earlier or later date.

Favor/Oppose Timetable Barack Obama Has Set to Begin Withdrawing U.S. Troops From Afghanistan No Later Than July 2011

These results are based on a June 25-26 USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted in the days after the president announced he was relieving Gen. Stanley McChrystal of his command of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and replacing him with Gen. David Petraeus. A majority of Americans approve of Obama's decision to remove McChrystal.

Obama said the change in command would not signal a change in U.S. policy in Afghanistan. On Sunday at the G-20 summit, Obama reiterated that the July 2011 date would mark the beginning of withdrawal but that it would not mark the end of the U.S. military presence there, adding that the U.S. would be assisting the people of Afghanistan for "a long time to come."

Most Democrats, and the majority of independents, favor the timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops beginning in July of next year. Republicans, on the other hand, oppose it by a better than 2-to-1 margin.

Opinion of Afghanistan Timetable, by Political Party Affiliation

More generally, Americans are somewhat divided in their views of Obama's handling of the situation in Afghanistan. The poll finds 50% saying Obama is doing a "very good" or "good" job, while 44% believe he is doing a "very poor" or "poor" job. Democrats give Obama high marks on Afghanistan, while Republicans mostly say he is doing a poor job.

How Would You Rate the Job President Obama Is Doing of Handling the Situation in Afghanistan? Among All Americans and by Party

Bottom Line

Americans generally support the timetable Obama has laid out for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Most of the opposition stems from philosophical disagreements as to whether any timetable should be set as opposed to the specifics of the July 2011 date Obama has set. At the G-20 summit Obama decried "the obsession" with the timetable, saying he was more focused on the mission's success, and refused to say whether the five-year exit strategy put forth at the summit was a reasonable timeline for getting all troops out of Afghanistan.

Survey Methods

Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 25-26, 2010, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,044 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

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.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

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.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit http://www.gallup.com/.

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