PRINCETON, NJ -- A new USA Today/Gallup poll finds nearly half of Americans saying the U.S. troop surge in Iraq, now over, has made the situation there better, up from 40% in February and just 22% a year ago. Accordingly, the percentage believing the surge "is not making much difference" has declined from 51% a year ago, and 38% in February, to just 32%.
The net result is that, for the first time, Americans are about evenly divided in their overall assessments of the surge: 48% say it is making the situation better while a combined 49% indicate it is not.
Although this balance of views is still not highly positive, it is more of an endorsement of the surge than what Gallup has previously found. The very first reading, from July 2007, was the most negative, when half of Americans (51%) believed the surge was having no impact and as many said it was making matters worse as said it was improving things.
Since then, the percentage crediting the surge with making things better has gradually come up and the percentage saying it is having no impact has gone down. There has been less change in the percentage blaming the surge for creating more problems, varying within an 8-point range from 25% to 17%.
Americans' views about the surge have been, and remain, highly politicized. However, all three partisan groups -- Republicans, independents, and Democrats -- have grown more likely since February to believe the surge is helping.
No Ripple Effect on War Views
Americans' growing confidence in the surge does not appear to be softening their broader criticism of the Iraq war. Although close to half of Americans now believe the surge is helping the situation in Iraq, the majority continue to say that sending troops to Iraq was a "mistake," and that things there are going "badly" for the United States.
Neither of these views has changed much in recent months.
The 56% saying the war is a mistake in the July 25-27 poll is similar to the 60% of last month and 59% in February. In fact, despite some fluctuation, views on this question have not changed substantively for the past 18 months. (The full trend is available here.)
Gallup now finds 46% of Americans saying things are going very or moderately well for the United States in Iraq, while 51% say things are going moderately or very badly. Compared to the current poll, the last time this question was asked, in November/December 2007, a similar number (43%) said things were going well, while slightly more (56%) said they were going badly. However, today's results are not much different from those recorded in January 2006. (The full trend is available here.)
In what could be Gallup's final assessment of the U.S. troop surge in Iraq that started in 2007 and ended earlier this month, Americans credit the surge with bringing about some progress in Iraq -- but not enough to convince them that the war is going well for the United States, or that sending troops there initially was the right course of action.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,007 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted July 25-27, 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).
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.
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