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Americans' Views on the Impact of the Iraq War

Americans' Views on the Impact of the Iraq War

Survey tests impact of war on six groups or goals

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The Bush administration has argued that the real impact of the Iraq war may not be known for many years to come. That may be the case, but it is nonetheless valuable to assess public opinion of the war as it is under way, even while understanding that the ultimate judgment of history may be different.

The June 9-11, 2006 USA Today/Gallup Poll included a series of questions that asked Americans if the war in Iraq had made things better off, the same, or worse off for six entities: the Iraqi people, the strength and preparedness of the U.S. military, the war on terrorism, the prospects for democracy in the Middle East, the people of the United States, and the image of the United States around the world.

The results were as follows:

Do you think each of the following is - [ROTATED: better off, about the same, or worse off] - as a result of the war with Iraq? How about for - [RANDOM ORDER]?

2006 Jun 9-11
(sorted by "better off")


Better off


Same


Worse off

No opinion

%

%

%

%

The Iraqi people

48

19

29

4

The strength and preparedness of the U.S. military

42

29

25

4

The war on terrorism

40

29

29

2

The prospects for democracy in the Middle East

37

33

26

5

The people of the United States

26

31

42

2

The image of the U.S. around the world

11

26

60

3

One conclusion is straightforward: A clear majority of Americans (60%) think the war has hurt the image of the United States around the world. Only 11% say that the war has been good for the country's image.

The interpretation of public opinion on the impact of the war on the other five groups and outcomes tested -- the people of Iraq, the U.S. military, the people of the United States, the war on terrorism, and prospects for democracy in the Middle East -- is perhaps more ambiguous.

Less than half of Americans agree that any of these groups or goals have been made either better off or worse off as a result of the war.

The closest to a majority "better off" opinion comes in terms of Americans' views of the impact of the war on the Iraqi people themselves. Forty-eight percent of Americans believe the people of Iraq are better off, while the rest either say they are worse off or that their situation has not changed.

Roughly 4 in 10 Americans (42%) say the people of the United States are worse off as a result of the Iraq war, while only 26% say they are better off -- a decidedly negative tilt in attitudes about the impact of the war on the home front. Given the risks and costs involved in going to war, whether the additional 31% saying the American people are "the same" is an endorsement or repudiation of the war is a matter of interpretation.

About 4 out of 10 Americans believe that the war on terrorism and the prospects of democracy in the Middle East have been improved as a result of the war. A little less than 3 out of 10 say these things are worse off, while the rest say things are about the same. Helping the fight against terrorism and promoting democracy in the Middle East are two of the major stated rationales for initiating the Iraq intervention. These data suggest that the majority of the American public have yet to agree that these objectives have been realized, although it can be argued that it may take years for the actual impact of the military action on terrorism or democracy in the Middle East to be known in full.

About 4 in 10 Americans believe the war has made the U.S. military better off rather than worse off. This is in spite of much discussion about whether the military has been stretched too thin by Iraq, including a confrontation between Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and U.S. troops about their equipment.

Interpretation

If one assumes that the Bush administration's stated purpose for the war was to create a situation in which Iraq, the war on terrorism, and other elements of the situation in the Middle East would end up better off than if the war had not been initiated, then these data can be seen in a negative light. Less than half of Americans agree -- at least at this point -- that several of the explicit objectives for military action advanced by the administration have been achieved.

The data could also be seen in a somewhat more positive light if one emphasizes the fact that less than a majority of Americans believe that all but one of the groups and objectives tested have suffered negatively as a result of the Iraq war (the exception being the image of the United States around the world).

Partisan Differences

The table below displays the differences among Republicans, independents, and Democrats in terms of perceptions that the war in Iraq has made the six entities better off:

Each of the Following Better Off Because of the War in Iraq?
June 9-11, 2006
(percent who say "better off")

Republicans

Independents

Democrats

%

%

%

The Iraqi people

74

41

30

The strength and preparedness of the U.S. military

63

36

27

The war on terrorism

68

29

21

The prospects for democracy in the Middle East

62

27

20

The people of the United States

48

16

11

The image of the U.S. around the world

18

9

6

These partisan differences are predictable, with a majority of Republicans saying that four of the six entities tested are better off: The Iraqi people, the war on terrorism, the U.S. military, and prospects for democracy in the Middle East. Slightly less than a majority of Republicans, however, believe that the people of the United States are better off, and less than one out of five say that the image of the United States around the world is better off. Well less than half of independents and Democrats say that any of the six groups or concepts tested are better off as a result of the war.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,002 adults, aged 18 years and older, conducted June 9-11, 2006. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±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.

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Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/23332/Americans-Views-Impact-Iraq-War.aspx
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