Powell "Bounce" Fades

by David W. Moore and Frank Newport

But majority of Americans still open to war with Iraq

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The latest Gallup Poll finds that overall public support for military action against Iraq has faded slightly from the recent high point registered shortly after Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech to the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5, but remains in solid majority territory at 59%. However, Americans continue to want international cooperation for such action. Support for war without a new U.N. vote authorizing it is only 30%, down 9 points from a poll conducted Feb. 7-9.

The poll also shows that Americans opposed to a war with Iraq are more intense in their beliefs than are those who favor military action. This results in a situation in which the number of Americans who feel intensely that war should be avoided is roughly equal to the number who are intensely in favor of war.

The poll, conducted Feb. 17-19, finds that 59% of Americans say they favor going to war in an attempt to remove Saddam Hussein from power. That's down slightly from the 63% who expressed this view right after Powell's United Nations appearance.

General support as measured by responses to this question has remained fairly stable since last fall, mostly in the mid- to high-50% range, except for a slight 5-point surge following Powell's presentation at the United Nations. In his appearance, the secretary of state presented evidence that purported to show Saddam Hussein had not complied with the U.N. resolution ordering Iraq to disarm. Since then, of course, the world has witnessed many large antiwar demonstrations across the globe, as well as a less-than-positive reaction by France in the U.N. Security Council to some of Powell's evidence, all of which could have affected American public opinion to some degree.

Public Support for Invading Iraq
September 2002–February 2003

A special analysis of public support for the war shows that about half of those who express support would not be "upset" if the government decides against war with Iraq, leaving 29% of all Americans who support a war and would be upset if the government backed out now.

At the same time, less than one-quarter of those who oppose military action would not be upset if the government persists in going to war, leaving 30% of all Americans who oppose a war and would be upset if it occurs. This disparity in intensity of feeling on the two sides of the issue leaves the situation as a standoff in public opinion among those who feel most intensely about it -- with about 3 in 10 on either end of the spectrum.

Public Attitudes About Invading Iraq

This analysis shows that 4 in 10 Americans (41%) express what might be called a "permissive" opinion -- they say they are unsure which course of action they prefer (3%), or they lean toward one option but will not be upset if the government chooses to do the opposite (38%). This latter group includes 30% who lean in favor of war and 8% who lean against it.

The current results show a slight shift against war among those who feel intensely about the issue. In September 2002, with 58% of Americans giving general support for the war, the intense public tilted toward war by 34% to 26%, compared with the 29% to 30% standoff that currently exists. Still, about the same number (40%) could be classified as having a "permissive" opinion, willing to accept whatever the government decided.

Support for War Without U.N. Approval Drops

The appetite for U.S. military action against Iraq without United Nations support has waned over the last week and a half. In the latest poll, just 30% of Americans say the United States should take action unilaterally, down from the 39% who felt this way in the immediate aftermath of Powell's speech (in the Feb. 7-9 poll). Forty percent now say the United States should wait for a second U.N. resolution of support for war (up from 34% in the Feb. 7-9 poll), and another 26% oppose war regardless of what the United Nations does.

Support for War Without U.N. Vote

These results underscore the pivotal role that a new United Nations vote can have in helping Americans formalize their views on the pending war. As can be seen, about two-thirds of Americans (66%) can be characterized as opposing a war without a new U.N. vote. At the same time, about the same number (70%) can be characterized as supporting the war if the United Nations does in fact authorize it. Right now, it is unclear whether the United States can get enough votes in the U.N. Security Council -- without a veto from France, Russia, or China, -- to get that authorization.

These results are very similar to those reviewed above based on an analysis of the intensity of public opinion. About 3 out of 10 Americans are on either end of the spectrum -- those who generally support war regardless of what the U.N. does and/or are unlikely to change their minds, versus those who generally oppose war regardless of what the U.N. does and/or are also unlikely to change their minds. The remainder have more mixed feelings about the situation, and can be swayed by the specific conditions under which movement toward war may come about.

Public Perceives Tarnished Bush Image

Americans recognize that President Bush's image has suffered in the eyes of other countries' leaders as he continues to forcefully argue his administration's case for war in Iraq.

A majority of Americans, 55%, now say that leaders of other countries "don't have much respect" for Bush, while 40% disagree. Prior to 9/11, Americans were ambivalent about the respect of world leaders for the then-newly elected president. But in the first Gallup Poll following the onset of the war on terrorism in which this "respect" question was asked (February 2002), 75% of Americans felt that world leaders respected Bush. A year later, at the beginning of this month, Americans were evenly divided in their views of whether or not world leaders respected Bush. Now, in the wake of worldwide antiwar protests and the strongly negative reaction of such leaders as French President Jacques Chirac, the American public has moved to a distinctly more pessimistic assessment of Bush's image around the world.

Do World Leaders Have Respect for George W. Bush?

It is interesting to note that the current figures are about the same as those measured twice during President Bill Clinton's tenure in office -- the first time in September 1994, and the other in May 2000.

Bush Job Approval at 58%

Bush's image has not changed dramatically among Americans in the past month. The just-completed poll shows Bush with a 58% job approval rating. That's a drop of three points from the Feb. 7-9 poll, but just a little below the average of 60% across the nine separate Gallup Polls conducted since the beginning of the new year.

George W. Bush's Job Approval Rating

Bush's job approval ratings are healthy by historical standards, but clearly much lower than they were throughout 2002. The current 58% rating remains about three points above the historical average for all presidents since World War II. Bush received the highest job approval rating in Gallup Poll history -- 90% -- in September 2001.

Survey Methods

The latest results are based on telephone interviews with 1,002 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 17-19, 2003. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 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.

Would you favor or oppose invading Iraq with U.S. ground troops in an attempt to remove Saddam Hussein from power?

 

Favor

Oppose

No opinion

%

%

%

2003 Feb 17-19

59

38

3

2003 Feb 7-9

63

34

3

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

58

38

4

2003 Jan 23-25

52

43

5

2003 Jan 10-12

56

38

6

2003 Jan 3-5 ^

56

39

5

2002 Dec 19-22 ^

53

38

9

2002 Dec 16-17 ^

58

35

7

2002 Dec 9-10

55

39

6

2002 Nov 22-24

58

37

5

2002 Nov 8-10

59

35

6

2002 Oct 21-22

54

40

6

2002 Oct 14-17 ^

56

37

7

2002 Oct 3-6

53

40

7

2002 Sep 20-22 ^

57

38

5

2002 Sep 13-16 †

57

39

4

2002 Sep 5-8 ^ †

58

36

6

2002 Sep 2-4 †

58

36

6

2002 Aug 19-21 †

53

41

6

2002 Jun 17-19 ^ †

61

31

8

2001 Nov 26-27 ‡

74

20

6

2001 Feb 19-21 ‡

52

42

6

1993 Jun 29-30 ‡

70

27

3

1992 Mar 30-Apr 5 ‡ ?

55

40

5

^

Asked of half sample.

WORDING: Would you favor or oppose sending American ground troops to the Persian Gulf in an attempt to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq?

WORDING: Would you favor or oppose sending American troops back to the Persian Gulf in order to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq?

?

Life Magazine/Gallup.



Would you favor or oppose sending American ground troops to the Persian Gulf in an attempt to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq?

If the government DOES NOT send troops to Iraq, would you be -- very upset, somewhat upset, not too upset, or not at all upset?

If the government DOES send troops to Iraq, would you be -- very upset, somewhat upset, not too upset, or not at all upset?

COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.23-25)

 

2003 Feb 17-19

2002 Sep 2-4

%

%

Favor -- upset if troops not sent

29

34

Favor -- not upset if troops not sent

30

24

Oppose -- not upset if troops sent

8

9

Oppose -- upset if troops sent

30

26

No opinion

3

7



Do you think the United States should invade Iraq with ground troops -- [ROTATED: only if the U.N. holds a new vote that authorizes the use of U.S. ground troops, even if the U.N. does not hold a new vote that authorizes the use of U.S. ground troops], or do you think the United States should not send ground troops to Iraq at all?

 


Only if U.N. holds new vote

Even if U.N. does not hold new vote

Should not send troops
at all


No
opinion

%

%

%

%

2003 Feb 17-19

40

30

26

4

2003 Feb 7-9

34

39

23

4

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

40

33

22

5



Do you think leaders of other countries around the world have respect for George W. Bush, or do you think they don't have much respect for him?

 

Respect him

Don't have much respect for him

No
opinion

%

%

%

George W. Bush

2003 Feb 17-19

40

55

5

2003 Feb 3-6

46

48

6

2002 Apr 29-May 1

63

31

6

2002 Feb 4-6

75

21

4

2001 Jul 19-22

45

47

8

2001 Jun 8-10

40

46

14

2001 Feb 1-4

49

38

13

Bill Clinton

2000 May 18-21

44

51

5

1994 Sep 23-25

41

55

5

^

Asked of a half sample.



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