Americans Increasingly Likely to Say U.S. Is Winning War

by Frank Newport

Support for military efforts remains at 88%

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Today marks the three-month anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A new Gallup poll reveals an increasingly optimistic American public -- almost two-thirds now say that the United States is winning the war on terrorism. Americans remain strongly committed to the military action in Afghanistan, and over half now feel that the war will be over in several months. At the same time, there is evidence from the new poll that the dominance of terrorism and the war is receding in the minds of Americans. A considerably lower percentage of the public now mentions terrorism and the war as the nation's number one problem, compared to previous months.

Almost Two-Thirds Now Say American is Winning the War on Terrorism

There has been a significant shift toward a more optimistic assessment of the war in Afghanistan following news of the collapse of the Taliban, and reports that Northern Alliance and U.S. forces are narrowing in on the location of Osama bin Laden. In the Dec. 6-9 poll, 64% of Americans say the United States is winning the war, while the number saying the terrorists are winning has fallen to just 5%. Twenty-eight percent say neither side is winning.

This marks a substantial shift in the public's attitude. Shortly after the military action began on Oct. 7, Americans were decidedly cautious when asked to assess the progress of the war. Forty-two percent said they thought the United States and its allies were winning, but just as many -- 44% -- said that neither side was winning, and 11% said that the terrorists were winning.

By Nov. 8-11, the number saying that the United States was winning had risen to 53%.

Who do you think is winning the war on terrorism -- the U.S. and its allies, neither side, or the terrorists?

There is a partisan element to these perceptions. An overwhelming 79% of Republicans say the United States is winning, while only 58% and 55% of independents and Democrats, respectively, agree. Additionally, younger Americans are much less likely to feel that the United States is winning the war than are those who are older. Only 53% of Americans 18-29 say the United States is winning, compared to 68% of those 50 and older.

How Long Will the War Last?

Despite repeated reminders from the Bush administration that the war on terrorism is far from over, our most recent poll shows that Americans have become increasingly likely to guess that it may end soon.

Over half of Americans now say that the war in Afghanistan will be over within several months or less. About four out of 10 say the fighting will last at least a year. This marks a significantly more optimistic position than was taken by the public in polling conducted just as the military action got underway.

Do you think the fighting in Afghanistan will continue for -- a few weeks or less, several months, a year or two, or more than two years?

The War: No Sign of Deterioration in Support

Support for the war in Afghanistan remains at about the 90% level. This high level of support has been remarkably unchanged over the last three months. Even before military action began, Gallup polling showed that about nine out of 10 Americans supported the concept of going to war to find those responsible for the attacks. That level of support didn't change once the war began, and hasn't changed in the weeks since.

Opinion of Military Action
Do you approve or disapprove of the current U.S. military action in Afghanistan?
^ -- Do you think the United States should -- or should not -- take military action in retaliation for Tuesday's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?
^^ -- Do you approve or disapprove of the U.S. taking military action in Afghanistan today?

Do you think the United States should -- or should not -- take military action in retaliation for Tuesday's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?

 

 

Should

Should not

No opinion

       

2001 Sep 14-15

88%

8

4



As you may know, the United States and Great Britain launched attacks on at least three cities in Afghanistan today in retaliation for the terrorist attacks that occurred in the U.S. on Sept. 11.

Do you approve or disapprove of the U.S. taking military action in Afghanistan today?

 

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

       

2001 Oct 7

90%

5

5



Do you approve or disapprove of the current U.S. military action in Afghanistan?

 

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

       

2001 Dec 6-9

88%

9

3

       

2001 Nov 26-27

92%

6

2

2001 Nov 2-4

86%

11

3

2001 Oct 19-21

88%

10

2



Bush Approval Remains High

Support for President George W. Bush continues to be strong. His most recent job approval rating is 86%, making nine consecutive polls with a job approval rating in the 86% to 90% range. Bush's average job approval rating since Sept. 11 has been 87%. In the months between February and early September, before the attacks, Bush averaged 56%.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?
Dec 6-9, ‘01

Number One Problem Facing the Country Today

Despite the increased optimism about the war and the continuing high levels of support for the military action, the new poll suggests that the overall impact of terrorism and the war in Afghanistan may have begun to fade in the minds of Americans.

In October, there was a major shift in Gallup's monthly update on what Americans consider to be the most important problem facing the country. While terrorism and national security essentially were not mentioned at all in early September, they were named by 64% of Americans as the top problem facing the country the next month, one of the most dramatic shifts in the assessment of the nation's most important problem in Gallup history. The percentage mentioning terrorism and the war, however, dropped slightly to 59% in November, and is down more significantly to 47% in the weekend poll.

At the same time, perceptions that the economy is the country's greatest problem were at a low 17% in October, but have risen to 23% last month and 29% this month.

Here are the basic data:

Most Important Problem
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