Iraq Attitudes Show Little Change Immediately After Libby Indictments

by Lydia Saad

Perceptions of the war are sour, but little different from recent months

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Political criticism of the Bush administration's Iraq policy intensified in recent weeks with the Oct. 28 indictment of White House aide I. Lewis Libby Jr. The larger controversy swirling around Libby, who resigned following his indictments, involves his role in an alleged White House plot to retaliate against former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson for asserting that the Bush administration had exaggerated the nuclear threat Iraq posed.

Despite this renewed focus on the White House's tactics in leading the country to war, Gallup finds little change in the percentage of Americans saying the Bush administration deliberately misled the public about whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. This is according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted immediately after the announcement of the Libby indictments. As was true in late July, a slim majority of Americans (53%) surveyed Oct. 28-30 said Bush had misled Americans; 45% disagreed.

There has also been no noteworthy change in the percentage of Americans saying it was a mistake to send U.S. troops to Iraq to begin with. The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted Oct. 28-30, finds 54% saying it was a mistake to send troops to Iraq. This is up from 49% saying the same a week earlier (as Iraqi voters were approving a new constitution), but is similar to the 53% to 59% recorded in August and September.

It is clear that the public is much more critical today of the Iraq war than it was at the outset. However, a broad view of Gallup trends suggests that most of this shift occurred within the first year of the war. Mounting U.S. casualties and renewed questions about Bush's motives for the war have triggered only a slight increase in public opposition to the war -- perhaps because these negatives are offset by positive factors surrounding Saddam Hussein's capture and democratic developments in Iraq, such as elections and the drafting of a constitution.

In the war's earliest stages, in the spring of 2003, only 31% of Americans believed Bush had deliberately misled the public about Iraq's weapons capacities, only 29% thought the war was going badly for the United States, and only 23% thought that sending U.S. troops to Iraq was a mistake. By the following year, in July 2004, these figures had risen to roughly 50% or more. Since then, the percentages saying Bush misled the public and that it was a mistake to send troops have each risen slightly, while the percentage saying things are going badly for the United States has remained about the same.

No Mere Exaggeration

Along with this rise in negative views about the United States' involvement in Iraq, there has been increased skepticism about the degree to which the Bush administration exaggerated the threat Iraq posed. At three different points, Gallup has asked respondents who think Bush misled Americans about the war to specify whether Bush merely exaggerated some specific details or greatly overstated the threat Iraq posed. And at each point, the majority of this group perceived that Bush had greatly overstated the threat.

Among the public as a whole, that figure is now 41%, up from 21% in May 2003 and 24% in July 2003.

These perceptions are highly related to partisan politics: only 14% of Republicans believe Bush greatly overstated the threat, compared with 66% of Democrats. Similarly, 8 in 10 Republicans say Bush did not deliberately mislead the public at all on this issue, compared with only 14% of Democrats.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 800 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 28-30, 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.

11. In view of the developments since we first sent our troops to Iraq, do you think the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq, or not?

Yes, a
mistake

No, not

No
opinion

Iraq

%

%

%

2005 Oct 28-30

54

45

1

2005 Oct 21-23

49

49

2

2005 Sep 16-18

59

39

2

2005 Sep 8-11

53

46

1

2005 Aug 28-30

53

46

1

2005 Aug 5-7 ^

54

44

2

2005 Jul 22-24

46

53

1

2005 Jun 24-26

53

46

1

2005 Apr 29-May 1 ^

49

48

3

2005 Mar 18-20 ^

46

51

3

2005 Feb 25-27

47

51

2

2005 Feb 4-6

45

55

*

2005 Jan 14-16

52

47

1

2005 Jan 7-9

50

48

2

2004 Nov 19-21

47

51

2

2004 Oct 29-31 ^

44

52

4

2004 Oct 22-24

47

51

2

2004 Oct 14-16

47

52

1

2004 Oct 9-10 ^

46

53

1

2004 Oct 1-3

48

51

1

2004 Sep 24-26

42

55

3

2004 Sep 3-5 ^

38

57

5

2004 Aug 23-25 ^

48

50

2

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

47

51

2

2004 Jul 19-21

50

47

3

2004 Jul 8-11 ^

54

45

1

2004 Jun 21-23 ^

54

44

2

2004 Jun 3-6 ^

41

58

1

2004 May 7-9 ^

44

54

2

2004 Apr 16-18 ^

42

57

1

2004 Jan 12-15 ^

42

56

2

2003 Nov 3-5 ^

39

60

1

2003 Oct 6-8 ^

40

59

1

2003 Jul 7-9 ^

27

72

1

2003 Mar 24-25 ^

23

75

2

^ Asked of a half sample

* Less than 0.5%

12. Do you think the Bush administration deliberately misled the American public about whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, or not?

Yes,
deliberately
misled

No,
did not

No
opinion

%

%

%

2005 Oct 28-30

53

45

2

2005 Jul 22-24

51

47

2

2005 Apr 1-2

50

48

2

2004 Oct 9-10

47

51

2

2004 Jul 19-21 ^

45

52

3

2004 Jan 29-Feb 1

43

54

3

2003 Jul 18-20

39

58

3

2003 Jun 27-29

37

61

2

2003 Jun 9-10

31

64

5

2003 May 30-Jun 1

31

67

2

^ Asked of a half sample

12. Do you think the Bush administration deliberately misled the American public about whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, or not?

13. Do you think the Bush administration -- [ROTATED: was generally accurate in describing the threat Iraq posed to the U.S., but exaggerated some of the specific details (or do you think the Bush administration) greatly overstated the threat Iraq posed to the U.S. in order to justify a war with Iraq]?

COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.12-13)

2005
Oct 28-30

2003
Jul 18-20

2003
May 30-
Jun 1

%

%

%

Yes, deliberately misled the American public

53

39

31

(Greatly overstated threat)

(41)

(24)

(21)

(Generally accurate but exaggerated)

(12)

(14)

(10)

(Unsure)

(*)

(1)

(*)

No, did not deliberately misled the American public

45

58

67

No opinion

2

3

2

* Less than 0.5%

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