Politics

Americans Oppose Renewing U.S. Combat Operations in Iraq

by Jeffrey M. Jones

More Americans see U.S. as less safe, and Middle East as less stable, as a result of war

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans are about twice as likely to oppose as they are to favor renewing U.S. combat operations in Iraq if Iraqi forces are unable to maintain security there. These views are shared by Democrats and independents, but a slight majority of Republicans disagree.

Next, as You May Know on August 31 U.S. Troops Will Officially Transfer Control of All Combat Operations in Iraq to the Iraqi Military. If Iraqi Forces Are Unable to Maintain Security, Would You Favor or Oppose U.S. Troops Once Again Taking a Role in Combat Operations in Iraq? Among All Americans and by Party ID

These results are based on an Aug. 21-22 USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted in advance of the official transfer of combat operations in Iraq from the U.S. military to Iraqi forces. The last remaining U.S. combat forces actually left Iraq last week. The United States plans to keep a smaller force in the country through the end of 2011.

A Gallup poll conducted earlier this month found Americans pessimistic that Iraqi forces would be able to limit insurgent attacks and maintain order in the country. That poll also found a majority of Americans in favor of sticking to the timetable for complete withdrawal from Iraq regardless of the situation there at the time.

Taken together, the results of the two recent polls on Iraq suggest Americans have little appetite for a continuing major U.S. presence in Iraq even though they believe Iraqis will not be able to handle the situation themselves.

These views exist even though Americans do not believe the war has met two of its stated objectives: making the U.S. safer from terrorism and stabilizing the political situation in the Middle East. On both counts, more Americans believe the situation is now worse rather than better, although substantial minorities believe there has been no change in either situation. Even Republicans, who tend to be most supportive of the war, are dubious the U.S. has achieved these goals.

As a Result of the Iraq War, Do You Think the U.S. Is Safer From Terrorism, There Has Been No Change, or the U.S. Is Less Safe From Terrorism? Among All Americans and by Party ID

As a Result of the Iraq War, Do You Think the Political Situation in the Middle East Is More Stable, There Has Been No Change, or the Political Situation in the Middle East Is Less Stable? Among All Americans and by Party ID

Americans do, however, acknowledge that Iraqis are better off because of the war -- 52% say this, while 20% believe they are worse off and 21% say there has been no change.

As a Result of the Iraq War, Do You Think the Iraqi People Are Better Off, There Has Been No Change for the Iraqi People, or the Iraqi People Are Worse Off? Among All Americans and by Party ID

The poll finds 60% of Americans saying the situation in Iraq was not worth going to war over, while 34% believe it was. In recent years, Gallup has also found a consistent majority of Americans saying the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq.

Bottom Line

Americans are eager to end their more than seven-year involvement in Iraq, even if that could leave Iraqis in charge of a situation they are not equipped to handle, and even if that means the United States has not met some of its stated objectives for going to war. Americans have been negatively disposed to the war for more than five years, and that has changed little even as they have become more optimistic about U.S. progress in the war since the surge of U.S. troops in 2007-2008.

Survey Methods

Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 21-22, 2010, with a random sample of 1,003 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., 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.

The questions reported here were asked of a random half-sample of respondents for two nights on the Gallup Daily tracking survey.

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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