PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans are now about evenly split in their views of how things are going for the United States in Afghanistan, with 47% saying things are going well and 49% saying things are going badly. This marks the first time since July 2009 that fewer than half have said things are going badly.
Gallup began asking Americans to evaluate progress in the Afghanistan war in September 2006, when 49% said it was going well and 46% said it was going badly. These views are quite similar to views today, although there have been significant changes between these two points.
The most positive attitudes on the war's progress were measured in July 2009, when 54% of Americans said things were going well. The most negative evaluations came a few months later, in November 2009, just before President Obama outlined his policy toward the war, when 32% of Americans said the war was going well for the U.S.
Less Than Half Say U.S. Made a Mistake
A majority of Americans continue to say the U.S. did not make a mistake in sending military forces to Afghanistan.
Gallup initially asked Americans the "mistake" question about Afghanistan in November 2001, shortly after President George W. Bush sent troops there in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. Gallup has used this question format to assess public opinion about military conflicts dating to the Korean War.
Initial reactions to the war in Afghanistan were extremely positive, with only 9% of Americans saying it was a mistake to become involved there, a number that dropped to 6% by January 2002. These initial assessments of the Afghanistan war were less negative than the initial assessments Gallup measured for the Korean War (20%), Vietnam (24%), the Persian Gulf War (16%) and the Iraq war (23%).
Although the number of Americans saying U.S. involvement in Afghanistan was a mistake rose after January 2002, this "mistake" percentage has never reached as high as 50%. By contrast, within a year and a half of initial U.S. involvement in Iraq, a majority of Americans said it was a mistake, and 55% said the Iraq war was a mistake in August 2010, the last time Gallup asked about that war.
Republicans Most Positive About War in Afghanistan
With the Democrat Obama managing a war that began under the Republican Bush, rank-and-file Republicans remain less likely than either independents or Democrats to say U.S. involvement in Afghanistan was a mistake. Republicans are also more likely than either independents or Democrats to say the war is going well for the U.S.
Although the U.S. may begin to withdraw some troops from Afghanistan this summer, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said the U.S. will probably maintain a military presence there at least through 2014.
At this point, there does not appear to be a groundswell of opposition to U.S. involvement in that country. While the U.S. has been involved in Afghanistan for more than nine years, less than half of Americans say sending U.S. military forces there was a mistake. In contrast, it took less than a year and a half for a majority of Americans to say sending troops to Iraq was a mistake.
Americans also do not appear to be overly concerned about the way things are going in Afghanistan, with about as many saying the war is going well as say it is going badly. This is a more positive assessment than was the case throughout last year and for much of 2009 and 2008.
Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 25-27, 2011, with a random sample of 1,027 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 2010 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 www.gallup.com.