PRINCETON, NJ -- More Americans believe history will judge the Iraq war as a failure (53%) rather than a success (42%). These views have varied little over the past few years even as Americans have become more positive in their assessments of how the war is going.
To a large degree, Americans' predictions on how history will judge the war mirror their basic support for the war -- 55% say the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq, while 41% disagree. War opposition has eased only slightly in recent years from a high of 63% in April 2008.
Despite their more negative than positive evaluations of the war effort, Americans think Iraq is better off now than it was before the war started. Sixty-four percent hold this view, though this is down from prior Gallup measurements.
These results are based on an Aug. 5-8 Gallup poll, conducted as the U.S. was in the process of transferring responsibility for combat operations to the Iraqi military. On Wednesday, the last U.S. combat troops left Iraq. About 50,000 U.S. troops remain to provide logistical support to the Iraqi forces.
Americans are not optimistic that Iraqi security forces are up to their new task. By 61% to 34%, the public believes Iraqi security forces will be unable to limit insurgent attacks and generally maintain peace and security in Iraq.
Nevertheless, Americans prefer that the U.S. stick to its timetable for withdrawing all troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. Fifty-three percent say U.S. withdrawal should proceed regardless of what is going on in Iraq at the time, while 43% think the U.S. should keep troops in Iraq beyond the deadline if Iraqi security forces cannot maintain order in Iraq.
War Views Are Highly Partisan
The war, one of the longest military conflicts in U.S. history, began under a Republican president and is being concluded under a Democratic one. As has been the case for much of the war's history, there is a clear partisan divide among the public, with Republicans generally supportive of the war and Democrats generally opposed.
Two areas on which there is some cross-party agreement are that Iraq is better off now than it was before the war (though only a slim majority of Democrats believe it is) and that Iraqi forces will be unable to maintain order in Iraq (Republicans are more pessimistic than Democrats on this count).
The transfer of combat operations to Iraqi forces marks a major milestone in the more than seven-year war in Iraq. The war proved more challenging for the United States than may have initially appeared to be the case after the U.S. toppled the Saddam Hussein regime in the spring of 2003. Americans' opinions of the war began to sour as progress became less obvious and U.S. casualties rose. For most of the last five years, a majority has opposed it, even as the United States began to make strides after the surge of U.S. troops in 2007.
For now, Americans believe history will be more harsh than kind in judging the war. Of course, the final chapters have not been written, as the U.S. will maintain a presence in the country for at least another year. The Iraqis' ability to keep the country secure will likely also factor into historical evaluations of the war.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 5-8, 2010, with a random sample of 1,013 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
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.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit http://www.gallup.com/.