Iraq War

Support for U.S. Policy in Iraq Is Dwindling

Clear majority now says sending troops was a mistake

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- While the Bush administration is trying to emphasize positive developments on the political front in Iraq, the recent escalation of rebel violence there -- in addition to public concerns about the costs of recovering from Hurricane Katrina -- may be costing President Bush some public support for his Iraq policy.

Public approval of Bush's overall handling of the situation in Iraq has tumbled eight points in just the past week, from 40% in a Sept. 8-11 poll to 32% in the most recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted Sept. 16-18. In fact, exactly 40% of Americans had approved of Bush's handling of Iraq in each of the previous four measures, dating back to May. Now, for the first time since the start of the Iraq war in 2003, two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the job he is doing on Iraq.

The percentage saying the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq has also reached a new high of 59%, up six points from earlier this month.

Also at a record high is the percentage of Americans favoring a reduction of U.S. troops in Iraq. More than 6 in 10 (63%) say the United States should now withdraw all or some of its troops from Iraq -- compared with an average of 55% who said this in August. Only about one-third would prefer to see the number of U.S. forces in that country maintained or strengthened.

The shift toward troop withdrawal is seen about evenly among Republicans, independents, and Democrats, just as the decline in Bush's approval rating on Iraq is similar by party.

While increased support for troop withdrawal is consistent with the general decline in support for U.S. involvement in Iraq recorded elsewhere in the poll, it could also reflect Americans' view that the costs of rebuilding New Orleans and helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina should be paid with money currently earmarked for Iraq.

When given four budgetary options, 54% of Americans choose cutting spending for the war in Iraq as the best way for the government to pay for the problems caused by Hurricane Katrina. Only small fractions of Americans opt for raising taxes (17%), increasing the federal budget deficit (15%), or cutting back on domestic programs (6%).

Insurgent Violence Shaking Americans' Resolve?

Rebels continue to attack U.S. military targets in Iraq, taking the lives of roughly two American soldiers per day; the total number of U.S. troops killed since the beginning of the Iraq war is expected to surpass 2,000 in November.

But this is not likely the cause for the sudden and sharp decline in public support for the Bush administration's Iraq policy seen in the latest poll. Rather, the perception that a civil war may be erupting between Sunni rebels and the Shiite Arab majority could be deepening Americans' sense that Iraq is descending into a quagmire.

The Sept. 16-18 poll comes on the heels of what one report described as "the deadliest day of attacks in Baghdad since the invasion of March 2003." Last Wednesday (Sept. 14), a dozen or so suicide bombings and other attacks claimed the lives of more than 150 Iraqi civilians and security personnel, only to be followed by more bombings and more than 30 killed on Thursday.

Contrary to this hypothesis, however, a Gallup Poll conducted Sept. 12-15 -- spanning the period of the Baghdad attacks -- found no drop in the percentage of Americans saying it was worth going to war in Iraq. The latest poll found 45% saying it was worth it and 53% not worth it -- nearly identical to an early August poll.

Is Katrina a Factor?

Another possible explanation for Americans' declining support for the Iraq war could be the financial connection between Iraq and the recovery from Hurricane Katrina. Gallup's Sept. 12-15 survey found the percentage of Americans naming Iraq as the nation's most important problem down sharply compared with August (dropping from 27% to 16%) at the same time that 13% mentioned Katrina as the nation's top problem. It is possible that Americans' concerns about the costs involved in hurricane recovery could be draining public support for continued U.S. military involvement in Iraq.

An Iraq backlash from Katrina was not evident in Gallup's Sept. 8-11 survey. At that time, attitudes about Bush's handling of Iraq were identical to those measured before Katrina made landfall south of New Orleans on Aug. 29. But as media coverage of Katrina has shifted from rescuing residents and dealing with refugees to the price of recovery, it's quite possible that the link Americans make between Katrina and Iraq has strengthened.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 818 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Sept. 16-18, 2005. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±4 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.

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

C. The situation in Iraq

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 Sep 16-18

32

67

1

2005 Sep 8-11

40

58

2

2005 Aug 28-30

40

59

1

2005 Jun 24-26

40

58

2

2005 May 20-22 ^

40

56

4

2005 Apr 29-May 1

42

55

3

2005 Apr 1-2

43

54

3

2005 Feb 25-27

45

53

2

2005 Feb 4-6

50

48

2

2005 Jan 7-9

42

56

2

2004 Nov 7-10

47

51

2

2004 Oct 14-16

46

52

2

2004 Sep 24-26

48

49

3

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 a half sample

9. If you had to choose, which of the following would you say would be the best way for the government to pay for the problems caused by Hurricane Katrina -- [ROTATED: increase the federal budget deficit, raise taxes, cut spending for the war in Iraq, (or) cut spending for domestic programs such as education and health care]?

Increase
federal
budget
deficit

Raise taxes

Cut
spending
for war
in Iraq

Cut spending
for domestic
programs

OTHER
(vol.)

No
opinion

2005 Sep 16-18

15%

17

54

6

5

3

(vol.) = Volunteered response

13. 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
now

Withdraw
some
troops

Withdraw
all
troops

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2005 Sep 16-18

8

26

33

30

3

2005 Aug 28-30

19

26

27

26

2

2005 Aug 5-7

13

28

23

33

3

2005 Jun 6-8

10

26

31

28

5

2005 Feb 4-6

10

38

32

17

3

2005 Jan 14-16

24

26

21

25

4

2004 Sep 24-26

21

35

21

18

5

2004 Jun 3-6

18

30

23

27

2

2004 May 7-9

25

24

18

29

4

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]?

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

Worth
it

Not
worth it

No
opinion

%

%

%

2005 Sep 12-15

45

53

2

2005 Aug 5-7 ^

44

54

2

2005 Jul 7-10

44

53

3

2005 Jun 29-30

46

52

2

2005 Jun 6-8

42

56

2

2005 Apr 29-May 1^

41

57

2

2005 Apr 1-2

45

53

2

2005 Feb 7-10

48

50

2

2005 Jan 3-5

46

52

2

2004 Oct 9-10 ^

44

54

2

2004 Sep 3-5 ^

49

48

3

2004 Aug 23-25 ^

51

46

3

2004 Aug 9-11 ^

49

48

3

2004 Jul 8-11 ^

47

50

3

2004 Jun 21-23 ^

46

51

3

2004 Jun 3-6 ^

46

52

2

2004 May 21-23

45

52

3

2004 May 7-9 ^

44

54

2

2004 May 2-4

50

47

3

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

^ 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.

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/18718/Support-US-Policy-Iraq-Dwindling.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030