Americans Express Strong Support for War

by David W. Moore

Expect few casualties and quick conclusion

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- With the war already 24 hours underway, a quick-reaction poll conducted by CNN/USA Today/Gallup on Thursday night finds widespread public support for the decision to launch the attacks, along with expectations for a quick war with few casualties. The vast majority of Americans believe Saddam Hussein is still alive, but they are somewhat divided as to whether the war will be a success if he is deposed from office but not captured or killed. Now that the war has actually begun, the public is feeling considerably more confident than it was last Monday, when President George W. Bush first announced his leave-Iraq-or-else ultimatum to Saddam. Americans also anticipate a shorter war with fewer casualties than they did at the outset of the first Persian Gulf War in January 1991.

The poll shows that three-quarters of all Americans approve of the decision to go to war, including 60% who approve strongly. Only one in five Americans disapprove -- 15% who feel strongly and 5% not strongly.

Do you approve or disapprove of the United States' decision to go to war with Iraq?

 

Approve, strongly

Approve,
not strongly

Disapprove,
not strongly

Disapprove,
strongly

No
opin-
ion

2003 Mar 20

60%

16

5

15

4



While just 20% disapprove of the decision, a slightly larger number, 27%, believe the United States should have waited longer to see if the United Nations inspections were effective. Still, a large majority, 70%, agrees with the timing of the attacks.

Whatever your feelings about the war now, do you think the United States should have begun military action against Iraq when it did, or do you think the U.S. should have waited longer to see if the United Nations inspections were effective?

 

Should have begun action when it did

Should have
waited longer

No
opinion

2003 Mar 20

70%

27

3



Both of these measures are roughly in line with the attitudes of the American public on January 16, 1991 as the first Persian Gulf War got underway. At that point, 79% said they approved of the decision to go to war to drive Iraq out of Kuwait, and 79% also said that it was proper to have begun military action without waiting longer to see if sanctions would have been effective.

Optimistic Expectations

The new poll shows that Americans are quite optimistic about the outcome of the war. About a third, 34%, believe the war will last less than a month, including 7% who expect it to be over within a week. Another third, 34%, believe the war will last between one and three months, while just over one-quarter project the war will take longer than three months.

How long do you think the war in Iraq will last? Do you think it will last a week, or less than a month, one to three months, or four to six months, or seven months to a year, or do you think the war in Iraq will last longer than that?

 



A
week


Less than a month


One-three months


Four-six months

Seven months
to a year


Longer
than a
year



No
opinion

2003 Mar 20

7%

27

34

13

6

8

5



In addition to a short war, most Americans expect relatively few casualties. About two-thirds predict at most several hundred killed or injured Americans in the war -- 41% who say fewer than 100, and 24% who say "several hundred." Another 16% of the public predicts up to 1,000 casualties, while 11% say several thousand or more.

Now that the U.S. has taken military action against Iraq, do you think that the number of Americans killed and injured will be -- less than 100, several hundred, up to a thousand, several thousand, or tens of thousands?

 

Less than 100

Several hundred

Up to a thousand

Several thousand

Tens of thousands

No opinion

2003 Mar 20

41%

24

16

10

1

8



In both of these situations, the estimates of the length of the war and casualties are significantly more optimistic than similar estimates in 1991 as that war got underway.

Americans Feeling Confident

More than 8 in 10 Americans, 83%, say they feel "confident" about the war, up from just 52% who felt that way last Monday, after the announcement of Bush's ultimatum. More than 6 in 10 also say they feel "proud" (65%) and "sad" (63%). Just over half, 56%, feel "worried," down from 70% who felt that way last Monday. Only 34% say they feel "afraid," compared with 48% who expressed that feeling on Monday.

FEELINGS AFTER HEARING OF WAR/WAR PLANS

 

March 20

When you heard that the U.S. was going to war with Iraq, did you, personally, feel:

March 17

Please tell me if the possibility of going to war in the next few days makes you, personally feel:

%

%

Confident

83

52

Proud

65

not asked

Sad

63

not asked

Worried

56

70

Afraid

34

48



Capture of Saddam Hussein

The initial strikes against Iraq were an attempt to "decapitate" Iraq of its leadership, but shortly thereafter a videotape was released in Iraq, purportedly showing Saddam Hussein denouncing the attacks. Later analysis by U.S. intelligence agencies strongly suggested that the person in the tape was really Saddam, making it likely the initial attacks were unsuccessful in getting rid of the Iraqi leader at the outset of the war.

The poll shows that 90% of Americans accept that Saddam is still alive, but they are divided as to whether he needs to be killed or captured in order for the war to be considered a success. A slight majority, 52%, says that if he is removed from power but escapes, the war could still be considered a success, while 43% disagree.

If Saddam Hussein is removed from power but escapes being captured or killed, would you consider the war in Iraq to be a success, or not a success?

 

Success

Not a success

No opinion

2003 Mar 20

52%

43

5



Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with -- 602 -- national adults, aged 18+, conducted March 20, 2003. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error 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.

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.

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