skip to main content

Fewer Say Iraq Worth Going to War Over

by David W. Moore

Failure to find weapons of mass destruction, continuing conflict appear to have major impact

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans are more divided over the merits of the Iraq war than they have been since January of this year, long before President Bush aggressively pushed the case for invading Iraq. Currently, 56% of Americans say the situation in Iraq was "worth going to war over," while 42% disagree. In mid-April, just after the United States took control of Baghdad, Americans said the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over by a 73% to 23% margin. Earlier this year, a Jan. 3-5 poll found opinion about as it is today -- 53% saying the situation was worth going to war over, and 42% saying it was not.

All in all, do you think the situation in Iraq is/was worth going to war over, or not?

A number of factors may have contributed to this decline in public favor, but the two most prominent appear to be the coalition's failure to find weapons of mass destruction, and the continuing fighting in Iraq. An open-ended question asked respondents who felt the situation was not worth fighting over to explain in their own words why they felt that way.

In your own words, why do you think the situation in Iraq was NOT worth going to war over? [OPEN-ENDED]

BASED ON 408 ADULTS WHO SAY THE SITUATION IN IRAQ WAS NOT WORTH GOING TO WAR OVER

 

2003 Jun 27-29

%

Fraudulent claims/no weapons of mass destruction/lied to the people about them

24

Nothing has been resolved in Iraq/waste of human lives

24

Needed more evidence/time to investigate/make a case for war

12

Stop policing the world/not our business

11

Opposed to war/needed to be handled peacefully

9

All about big business/oil/gas

7

U.S. looks like a bully trying to control the world

7

Other countries are more of a threat

6

Need to take care of own problems first

3



Twenty-four percent of these respondents mentioned the lack of weapons of mass destruction, suggesting how important this factor has come to be in the public's view. Also mentioned by 24% of these respondents was the charge that nothing has been resolved in Iraq, and that the war was a waste of lives.

These views volunteered by those who say the situation in Iraq was not worth going to war over are reinforced by other questions in the poll:

  • Only 53% of Americans say they are either "very" or "somewhat" confident that weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq -- down from 84% who were that confident last March during the war.
  • Just 48% of Americans say they are confident the United States will capture or kill Saddam Hussein, while about an equal number, 49%, express low confidence (not too confident, not at all confident). Last March, 70% of Americans expressed high confidence, just 28% low confidence.
  • Also, 55% of Americans say they are confident the United States can establish a stable democratic government in Iraq, down from 65% in March.
  • By 56% to 42%, Americans say things are going well for the United States in Iraq, but that is down from a 70% to 29% ratio at the beginning of June.

All of these questions reinforce a major decline in positive sentiment about the Iraq war.

Public More Positive Than Negative

Despite the decline, public opinion about the war remains more positive than negative. The reasons a majority of Americans remain positive are found in the open-ended question asking respondents why they said the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over.

In your own words, why do you think the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over? [OPEN-ENDED]

BASED ON 574 ADULTS WHO SAY THE SITUATION IN IRAQ WAS WORTH GOING TO WAR OVER

 

2003 Jun 27-29

%

Protect the nation/stop the threat to world security

30

Removing Saddam Hussein from power (evil/cruel dictator)

27

Need to free the Iraqi people/stop the oppression

18

Because of Sept. 11/to stop terrorism

13

To stop weapons of mass destruction from being sold or made

8

To promote democracy/peace in the Middle East

5

To show that you cannot mess with the United States

4

Other

4

No opinion

3



The dominant reason appears to be security oriented -- 30% say to protect the United States, an additional 13% say to stop terrorism, and 8% say the war was worth it to stop weapons of mass destruction from being sold or made.

But many supporters also cite U.S. success in removing Saddam Hussein from power (27%) and freeing the Iraqi people (18%) -- neither of which are inherently related to U.S. national security, but rather to making the situation in Iraq better for the Iraqis.

The major justification offered by the Bush administration for going to war was to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, but only 8% of those who believe the Iraq war was worth it mention these weapons. For most of the supporters, that issue is not especially relevant.

Still Worth Being in Iraq

Although a modest majority of Americans, 56%, say the situation was worth going to war over, a much larger majority, 69%, say that it is worth having U.S. troops in Iraq now. This view is reinforced by another question that finds 68% of Americans expressing a high degree of confidence that the United States will be able to rebuild the Iraqi economy. Also, only 24% of Americans believe that the casualties sustained by the American armed forces over the last two months -- 23 Americans have died since May 1 – are unacceptably high. Three-quarters say that this number is to be expected.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,003 national adults, aged 18+, conducted June 27-29, 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.

For results based on the sample of 574 adults who say the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 408 adults who say the situation in Iraq was not worth going to war over, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 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.

Next, we'd like to ask you some questions about Iraq. First,

All in all, do you think the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over, or not?

 

Worth
going to war

Not worth
going to war

No
opinion

%

%

%

2003 Jun 27-29

56

42

2

2003 Apr 14-16 ^

73

23

4

2003 Apr 9 ^ †

76

19

5

2003 Apr 7-8 ^

67

30

3

2003 Mar 24-25 ^ ‡

68

29

3

2003 Jan 3-5 ^ ‡

53

42

5

^

WORDING: All in all, do you think the current situation in Iraq is worth going to war over, or not?

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.

Asked of a half sample.



Trends for Comparison:

 

Worth
going to war

Not worth
going to war

No
opinion

%

%

%

1998 Feb 20-22

57

36

7

Persian Gulf War

1991 Jan 30-Feb 2 ^

71

24

5

1991 Jan 11-13 †

46

44

10

1991 Jan 3-6 †

47

44

9

1990 Dec 13-16 †

49

44

7

1990 Dec 6-9 †

47

45

8

1990 Nov 29-Dec 2 †

51

41

8

1990 Nov 15-18 †

46

45

9

1990 Sep 27-30 †

49

41

10

1990 Aug 30-Sep 2 †

45

44

11

1990 Aug 23-26 †

49

41

10

^

All in all, do you think the situation in the Middle East involving Iraq and Kuwait is worth going to war over, or not?

All in all, is the current situation in the Mideast worth going to war over, or not?



In your own words, why do you think the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over? [OPEN-ENDED]

BASED ON 574 ADULTS WHO SAY THE SITUATION IN IRAQ WAS WORTH GOING TO WAR OVER

 

2003 Jun 27-29

%

Protect the nation/stop the threat to world security

30

Removing Saddam Hussein from power (evil/cruel dictator)

27

Need to free the Iraqi people/stop the oppression

18

Because of Sept. 11/To stop terrorism

13

To stop weapons of mass destruction from being sold or made

8

To promote democracy/peace in the Middle East

5

To show that you cannot mess with the United States

4

Other

4

No opinion

3



In your own words, why do you think the situation in Iraq was NOT worth going to war over? [OPEN-ENDED]

BASED ON 408 ADULTS WHO SAY THE SITUATION IN IRAQ WAS NOT WORTH GOING TO WAR OVER

 

2003 Jun 27-29

%

Fraudulent claims/no weapons of mass destruction/lied to the people about them

24

Nothing has been resolved in Iraq/waste of human lives

24

Needed more evidence/time to investigate/make a case for war

12

Stop policing the world/not our business

11

Opposed to war/needed to be handled peacefully

9

All about big business/oil/gas

7

U.S. looks like a bully trying to control the world

7

Other countries are more of a threat

6

Need to take care of own problems first

3

None

*

Other

8

No opinion

3



How would you say things are going for the U.S. in Iraq now that the major fighting has ended – [ROTATED: very well, moderately well, moderately badly, (or) very badly]?

 

Very

well

Moderately well

Moderately badly

Very

badly

No
opinion

2003 Jun 27-29

5%

51

29

13

2

2003 May 30-Jun 1

11%

59

22

7

1

2003 May 5-7 ^

30%

56

10

3

1

2003 Apr 22-23 ^

21%

64

12

2

1

^

Asked of a half sample.



5. Thinking about the U.S. presence in Iraq since major fighting ended, do you think it is worth having U.S. troops there now, or not?

 

Worth

Not worth

No opinion

2003 Jun 27-29

69%

30

1



How confident are you that the U.S. will – [RANDOM ORDER]—very confident, somewhat confident, not too confident, or not confident at all?

A. Capture or kill Saddam Hussein

 


Very confident


Somewhat confident


Not too confident

Not confident
at all


No
opinion

2003 Jun 27-29

18%

30

29

20

3

2003 Mar 29-30

36%

34

17

11

2



B. Find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq

 


Very confident


Somewhat confident


Not too confident

Not confident
at all


No
opinion

2003 Jun 27-29

22%

31

25

20

2

2003 Mar 29-30

52%

32

10

5

1



C. Establish a stable democratic government in Iraq

 


Very confident


Somewhat confident


Not too confident

Not confident
at all


No
opinion

2003 Jun 27-29

15%

40

28

16

1

2003 Mar 29-30

20%

45

22

12

1



* -- less than 0.5%

Gallup


Gallup http://news.gallup.com/poll/8761/Fewer-Say-Iraq-Worth-Going-War-Over.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030