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Americans Uncertain About Iraq Threat

Barely half are convinced Iraq has weapons of mass destruction

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The bottom line out of the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll on Iraq: Americans will be listening intently to what Colin Powell has to say about Iraq at the United Nations today, and they are predisposed to support a military invasion against Iraq if they become convinced it is in breach of its major U.N. weapons agreements. To date, however, many Americans are not convinced that the most serious weapons charges against Iraq definitely have merit (although the vast majority suspect they do). Only half are certain Iraq has weapons of mass destruction or the facilities to make them. And perhaps as a result, three in five Americans consider Iraq to be a long-term, rather than an immediate, danger to the United States.

The new poll, conducted this past weekend, establishes important benchmarks for public opinion about Iraq's current weapons abilities. They can be updated to determine Secretary of State Colin Powell's effectiveness in convincing Americans of the Iraq threat in his presentation to the United Nation's today. At this point, only half the public (52%) is convinced that Iraq is obstructing the U.N. inspectors, similar to the number who are convinced Iraq has either the facilities to create weapons of mass destruction (46%) or has existing biological or chemical weapons (50%). But close to half or more of the public has doubts about these charges. The public is considerably less certain that Iraq currently has nuclear weapons (28%), or that it has ties to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist organization (39%). On all of these issues, the vast majority thinks the charges are likely to be true -- even if they are not certain.

Public Assessment of Iraq Weapons Capabilities and Terrorist Links

Jan 31-Feb 2, 2003

Certain is true

Likely but not certain

Unlikely/
Certain not true

%

%

%

Is obstructing the United Nations weapons inspectors

52

38

8

Has biological or chemical weapons

50

44

4

Has facilities to create weapons of mass destruction

46

49

4

Has ties to Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization known as al Qaeda

39

48

10

Has nuclear weapons

28

49

21

Americans Poised to Support War

The same poll finds that if Powell presents convincing evidence that any of these charges are true, a majority of Americans would then believe the United States is justified in using military action against Iraq. The good news for Bush's team is that the issue Powell is likely to have the most to say about today -- Iraq's efforts to obstruct and deceive weapons inspectors -- is considered to be a just cause for invasion by fully three-quarters of Americans (76%). Even a slim majority of Americans who currently oppose invading Iraq (52% of this group) say that the United States would be justified in attacking Iraq if the obstruction charge can be proved.

Even more Americans would be supportive of military action if they were shown credible evidence that Iraq has existing stockpiles of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. More than four in five Americans say the United States would be justified in attacking Iraq under these circumstances. However, a much smaller majority, just 60%, say the United States would be justified if it is proved Iraq has only the facilities to create weapons of mass destruction, but does not have the weapons.

Findings About Iraq That Would Justify
a U.S. Military Invasion
Jan 31 – Feb 2, 2003

Other Poll Findings

  • Americans are now much more likely to believe war is at close hand than they did last fall. Close to three in 10 Americans today, compared to only 8% in September 2002, say the United States will definitely be at war with Iraq within the next three months. Over half, 59%, say the United States will probably be at war, while 11% -- down from 35% in September -- doubt this will be the case. And 18% of Americans (according to a separate question) believe the United States will definitely be at war with Iraq one month from now.
  • Americans are closely divided over whether the burden of proof now lies with the U.N. inspectors or with Iraq to settle the issue of whether or not Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction. Forty-seven percent believe the burden is on Iraq to present proof of its claim that the weapons it admitted having in 1991 have since been destroyed; 46% believe the burden is on the U.N. inspectors to find proof that Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction.
  • Similarly, the public is split in half over whether weapons inspectors should be given more time to work or whether it is "now time to take stronger action against Saddam Hussein, including the use of force." Fifty percent would give inspectors more time, while 48% favor stronger action.
  • Few Americans, only 33%, think the United States should proceed with a military invasion even without U.N. authorization; the remainder either believe the United States should only take military action if the United Nations votes to authorize the use of U.S. troops (40%), or say the United States should not send troops at all (22%).
  • At the same time, 58% -- roughly the same number who favor the idea of invading Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power -- are either supportive of the pace Bush has set in moving toward military action against Iraq (47% say his pace has been "about right"), or think it should be even swifter (12%). Just 39% say he is moving too quickly.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,003 adults, 18 years and older, conducted Jan. 31-Feb. 2, 2003. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 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 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 invading Iraq with U.S. ground troops in an attempt to remove Saddam Hussein from power?

Would you say – [ROTATED: your mind is made up about invading Iraq, (or) you could change your mind about invading Iraq]?

COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.14-15)

 

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

%

Favor invading Iraq with U.S. ground troops

58

(Mind is made up about invading Iraq)

(31)

(Could change mind about invading Iraq)

(27)

Oppose invading Iraq with U.S. ground troops

38

(Mind is made up about invading Iraq)

(13)

(Could change mind about invading Iraq)

(25)

No opinion

4



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 Jan 31-Feb 2

40%

33

22

5



Do you think George W. Bush is moving [ROTATED: too quickly, at about the right pace, or too slowly]toward military action against Iraq?

 

Too quickly

About right

Too slowly

No opinion

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

39%

47

12

2



 

Which comes closest to your view – [ROTATED: Iraq poses an immediate threat to the United States, Iraq poses a long-term threat to the U.S., but not an immediate threat, or Iraq does not pose a threat to the United States at all]?

 

Immediate
threat

Long-term
threat

Does not pose
a threat

No
opinion

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

29%

61

7

3



As you may know, Iraq has claimed that it no longer has weapons of mass destruction. In order to determine if that is true, who do you think has the greater burden of proof – [ROTATED: Iraq, to show proof that it destroyed the weapons of mass destruction it admitted it had in 1991 (or) the U.N. inspectors, to find proof that Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction]?

 


Iraq


U.N. inspectors

EQUAL BURDEN (vol.)

No
opinion

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

47%

46

5

2



Some people feel that the weapons inspections by the United Nations in Iraq should be given more time to work. Other people feel that it is time to take stronger action against Saddam Hussein, including the use of armed force. Which one of these views comes closer to how you feel?

 

More time

Take stronger action

No opinion

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

50%

48

2



TREND FOR COMPARISON:

Some people feel the sanctions imposed by the international community against Iraq should be given more time to work. Other people feel that it is time to take stronger action against Saddam Hussein, including the use of armed force. Which one of these views comes closer to how you feel?

 

More time

Take stronger action

No opinion

1991 Jan 3-6

36%

57

7

1990 Dec 6-9

47%

46

7

1990 Nov 29-Dec 2

46%

48

6



Thinking about one month from now, do you think the United States will -- [ROTATED: definitely be at war with Iraq, probably be at war, probably NOT be at war, (or) definitely NOT be at war with Iraq]?

BASED ON --504-- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

 


Definitely
be at war


Probably
be at war

Probably not be at war

Definitely not be at war


No
opinion

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

18%

60

18

1

3



Thinking about the next three months, do you think the United States will -- [ROTATED: definitely be at war with Iraq, probably be at war, probably NOT be at war, (or) definitely NOT be at war with Iraq]?

BASED ON --499-- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

 


Definitely
be at war


Probably
be at war

Probably not be at war

Definitely not be at war


No
opinion

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

28%

59

10

1

2

2002 Sep 13-16

8%

53

34

1

4



Which of the following statements best describes your view of whether –[RANDOM ORDER]?Would you say– [ROTATED: you are certain that this is true, you think it is likely that this is true, but you are not certain, you think it is unlikely that this is true, but you are not certain, (or) you are certain that this is NOT true]?

BASED ON –504—NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

A. Iraq is obstructing the United Nations weapons inspectors

 


Certain is true


Likely but not certain

Unlikely but not certain


Certain is
not true


No
opinion

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

52%

38

7

1

2



B. Iraq has facilities to create weapons of mass destruction

 


Certain is true


Likely but not certain

Unlikely but not certain


Certain is
not true


No
opinion

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

46%

49

4

*

1



C. Iraq has biological or chemical weapons

 


Certain is true


Likely but not certain

Unlikely but not certain


Certain is
not true


No
opinion

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

50%

44

4

*

2



D. Iraq has nuclear weapons

 


Certain is true


Likely but not certain

Unlikely but not certain


Certain is
not true


No
opinion

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

28%

49

18

3

2



E. Iraq has ties to Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization known as al Qaeda

 


Certain is true


Likely but not certain

Unlikely but not certain


Certain is
not true


No
opinion

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

39%

48

9

1

3



SUMMARY TABLE: CERTAINTY ON IRAQ ISSUES

 

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2
(sorted by "certain is true")

 

Certain is true

Likely but not certain

%

%

Iraq is obstructing the United Nations weapons inspectors

52

38

Iraq has biological or chemical weapons

50

44

Iraq has facilities to create weapons of mass destruction

46

49

Iraq has ties to Osama bin Laden'sterrorist organization known as al Qaeda

39

48

Iraq has nuclear weapons

28

49



If the United States were able to present evidence that convinced you that [RANDOM ORDER], do you think the U.S. would – or would not – be justified in using military action against Iraq?

BASED ON –499—NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

A. Iraq is obstructing the United Nations weapons inspectors

 

Yes, would

No, would not

No opinion

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

76%

22

2



B. Iraq has facilities to create weapons of mass destruction, but does not have any weapons at this time

 

Yes, would

No, would not

No opinion

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

60%

37

3



C. Iraq has biological or chemical weapons

 

Yes, would

No, would not

No opinion

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

85%

14

1



D. Iraq has nuclear weapons

 

Yes, would

No, would not

No opinion

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

85%

14

1



E. Iraq has ties to Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization known as al Qaeda

 

Yes, would

No, would not

No opinion

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2

86%

12

2



SUMMARY TABLE: JUSTIFICATIONS FOR WAR IN IRAQ

 

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2
(sorted by "yes, would be")

Yes, would

No,
would not

%

%

Iraq has ties to Osama bin Laden'sterrorist organization known as al Qaeda

86

12

Iraq has biological or chemical weapons

85

14

Iraq has nuclear weapons

85

14

Iraq is obstructing the United Nations weapons inspectors

76

22

Iraq has facilities to create weapons of mass destruction

60

37



* -- Less than 0.5%

Gallup


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