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Public Sees Victory in Iraq as Elusive for U.S.

Public Sees Victory in Iraq as Elusive for U.S.

Only 35% believe U.S. will win

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The latest USA Today/Gallup poll update on Americans' attitudes toward the Iraq war shows a high level of pessimism for a U.S. victory in Iraq. Also, by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, the public says the costs of succeeding in Iraq outweigh the benefits that would come from doing so. Americans are also more likely to believe that the war will, in the long run, make things worse rather than better in a number of areas. Basic support for the war continues to be more negative than positive, particularly regarding the question of whether it was worth going to war. 

Victory in Iraq

According to the Dec. 8-10, 2006 poll, 64% of Americans say neither the United States and its allies nor the insurgents in Iraq are winning the war, while the rest divide about evenly between saying the United States (16%) and the insurgents (17%) are winning. Even though a plurality, if not the majority, of Americans has viewed the war as a stalemate for some time, in recent months, assessments that the United States is winning have declined considerably. As recently as February of this year, Americans said the United States was winning by a better than 3-to-1 margin over the insurgents.

The recent Iraq Study Group -- a group led by James Baker and Lee Hamilton -- report was notable in that it did not call for a U.S. "victory" in Iraq. The Bush administration continues to hold out victory as the goal. While a majority of Americans believe a U.S. victory in Iraq is possible, only about one in three thinks it is likely. Just 35% of Americans now believe the United States will definitely (14%) or probably (21%) win the war in Iraq -- the lowest percentage Gallup has measured on this question since it was first asked in September 2005. An additional 25% of Americans believe the United States can win the war, but do not think it will. Thirty-six percent believe the United States cannot win the war.

One increasingly difficult question for the government to answer is, even if the United States can win the war, should it attempt to do so? That is, do the benefits the United States would realize from succeeding in Iraq justify the high costs necessary to do so? The poll finds that most Americans think not -- 64% say the costs of succeeding outweigh the benefits while 33% believe the benefits outweigh the costs.

That may stem from the public's view that many of the possible benefits from winning the war will not be realized in the long run. By sizeable margins, Americans say that the image of the United States around the world, relations between the United States and Middle East governments, and peace and stability in the Middle Easts will be worse off rather than better off as a result of the war. Also, by smaller margins, more say the people of the United States and the war on terrorism will be worse off because of the war than better off. Americans are divided as to whether the Iraqi people will be better (38%) or worse off (35%) in the long run, but believe the U.S. military will be better off. 

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

Better
off


Same

Worse
off

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

The strength and preparedness of the U.S. military

44

30

23

2

The Iraqi people

38

24

35

2

The war on terrorism

32

30

36

2

The people of the United States

28

36

36

1

Peace and stability in the Middle East

19

37

42

1

Relations between the U.S. and Middle East governments

18

31

49

2

The image of the U.S. around the world

14

25

60

1

Troops in Iraq

The Iraq Study Group called for most U.S. troops to leave Iraq by early 2008, an idea endorsed by 74% of respondents in the poll. The Bush administration is still considering other options on Iraq, so the future of the United States' military presence there is very much an open question.

The public predicts the United States will have a significant number of troops in Iraq for a year or longer -- 38% say for one to two years and 42% say longer than two years. But Americans' wishes on the subject are very different. Only 39% believe the United States should have troops in Iraq for a year or longer. The majority says the United States should have troops in Iraq for less than six months (32%) or six months to a year (25%).

Basic Support for the War

Not surprisingly, Americans are more likely to express opposition to -- rather than support for -- the war based on two frequently updated Gallup measures. Americans are slightly more negative in their evaluation of the war when asked whether it was "worth it" than when they are asked if the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq.

Fifty-three percent of Americans say the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq, while 45% disagree. A slight majority of Americans have typically said the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq over the course of this year. Opposition to the war on this measure has reached as high as 59% (in September 2005) while support peaked at 75% during the initial stages of the war in March 2003. 

Just 37% of Americans say it was "worth going to war in Iraq" while 62% say it was not worth it. That matches the lowest point for support on this measure.  

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,009 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Dec. 8-10, 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.

Q.6-7 SPLIT SAMPLED

6. In view of the developments since we first sent our troops to Iraq, do you think the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq, or not?

            BASED ON  505 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

Yes

No

No
opinion

%

%

%

2006 Dec 8-10 ^

53

45

2

2006 Nov 2-5

55

40

5

2006 Oct 20-22

58

40

2

2006 Oct 6-8

56

40

4

2006 Sep 15-17

49

49

2

2006 Jul 28-30

54

45

2

2006 Jul 21-23

56

41

2

2006 Jun 23-25

55

43

1

2006 Jun 9-11

51

46

2

2006 Apr 7-9

57

42

1

2006 Mar 10-12 ^

57

42

1

2006 Feb 28-Mar 1

55

43

2

2006 Feb 9-12 ^

55

42

3

2006 Jan 20-22

51

46

3

2006 Jan 6-8 ^

50

47

3

2005 Dec 16-18

52

46

2

2005 Dec 9-11

48

50

2

2005 Nov 11-13 ^

54

45

1

2005 Oct 28-30

54

45

1

2005 Oct 21-23

49

49

2

2005 Sep 16-18

59

39

2

2005 Sep 8-11

53

46

1

2005 Aug 28-30

53

46

1

2005 Aug 5-7 ^

54

44

2

2005 Jul 22-24

46

53

1

2005 Jun 24-26

53

46

1

2005 Apr 29-May 1 ^

49

48

3

2005 Mar 18-20 ^

46

51

3

2005 Feb 25-27

47

51

2

2005 Feb 4-6

45

55

*

2005 Jan 14-16

52

47

1

2005 Jan 7-9

50

48

2

2004 Nov 19-21

47

51

2

2004 Oct 29-31 ^

44

52

4

2004 Oct 22-24

47

51

2

2004 Oct 14-16

47

52

1

2004 Oct 9-10 ^

46

53

1

2004 Oct 1-3

48

51

1

2004 Sep 24-26

42

55

3

2004 Sep 3-5 ^

38

57

5

2004 Aug 23-25 ^

48

50

2

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

47

51

2

2004 Jul 19-21

50

47

3

2004 Jul 8-11

54

45

1

2004 Jun 21-23

54

44

2

2004 Jun 3-6

41

58

1

2004 May 7-9

44

54

2

2004 Apr 16-18

42

57

1

2004 Jan 12-15

42

56

2

2003 Nov 3-5

39

60

1

2003 Oct 6-8

40

59

1

2003 Jul 7-9

27

72

1

2003 Mar 24-25

23

75

2

^ = Asked of a half sample

* = Less than 0.5%

7. All in all, do you think it was worth going to war in Iraq, or not? 

Worth
going to war

Not worth
going to war

No
opinion

%

%

%

2006 Dec 8-10 ^

37

62

1

2006 Mar 10-12 ^

37

60

3

2006 Jan 6-8 ^

46

52

3

2005 Nov 11-13 ^

38

60

2

2005 Sep 12-15

45

53

2

2005 Aug 5-7 ^

44

54

2

2005 Jul 7-10

44

53

3

2005 Jun 29-30

46

52

2

2005 Jun 6-8

42

56

2

2005 Apr 29-May 1

41

57

2

2005 Apr 1-2

45

53

2

2005 Feb 7-10

48

50

2

2005 Jan 3-5

46

52

2

2004 Oct 9-10 ^

44

54

2

2004 Sep 3-5 ^

49

48

3

2004 Aug 23-25 ^

51

46

3

2004 Aug 9-11 ^

49

48

3

2004 Jul 8-11 ^

47

50

3

2004 Jun 21-23 ^

46

51

3

2004 Jun 3-6 ^

46

52

2

2004 May 21-23 ^

45

52

3

2004 May 7-9 ^

44

54

2

2004 May 2-4

50

47

3

2004 Apr 16-18 ^

52

46

2

2004 Apr 5-8

50

47

3

2004 Mar 26-28

56

41

3

2004 Mar 5-7

55

43

2

2004 Jan 29-Feb 1

49

49

2

2004 Jan 9-11

59

38

3

2003 Dec 15-16 ^ †

65

33

2

2003 Dec 14 †‡#

62

33

5

2003 Dec 5-7 †

59

39

2

2003 Nov 14-16 †

56

42

2

2003 Nov 3-5 †

54

44

2

2003 Oct 24-26 †

54

44

2

2003 Oct 6-8 †

55

44

1

2003 Sep 19-21 †

50

48

2

2003 Sep 8-10 †

58

40

2

2003 Aug 25-26 †

63

35

2

2003 Jul 25-27 †

63

34

3

2003 Jul 18-20 †

63

35

2

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

^ = Asked of a half sample

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

‡ = 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.

Q.8-9 SPLIT SAMPLED

8. Who do you think is currently winning the war in Iraq -- the U.S. and its allies, the insurgents in Iraq, or neither side?

            BASED ON 505 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A


U.S. and
its allies

Insurgents
in Iraq

Neither
side

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

2006 Dec 8-10 ^

16

17

64

3

 

 

 

 

2006 Oct 20-22 ^

19

21

58

1

2006 Feb 9-12

31

10

55

4

2005 Dec 16-18 ^

40

9

50

1

2005 Dec 9-11 ^

36

13

49

2

2005 Jun 24-26

34

14

50

2

2005 Feb 25-27

43

7

48

2

2004 Nov 19-21

44

7

46

3

2004 Oct 22-24 ^

35

10

53

2

^ = Asked of a half sample

9. Which comes closer to your view about the war in Iraq -- [ROTATED: you think the U.S. will definitely win the war in Iraq, you think the U.S. will probably win the war in Iraq, you think the U.S. can win the war in Iraq, but you don't think it will win, (or) you do not think the U.S. can win the war in Iraq]?

            BASED ON 504 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

Definitely
win

Probably
win

Can win,
but
don't
think
will
win

Do not
think it
can win

No
opinion

NET:
can win

NET:
will
win

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

2006 Dec 8-10 ^

14

21

25

36

3

60

35

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2006 Jun 9-11

19

29

21

27

4

69

48

2006 Apr 7-9

20

19

21

36

4

60

39

2006 Feb 28-Mar 1

24

20

18

34

5

62

44

2005 Dec 16-18 ^

24

25

20

27

4

69

49

2005 Dec 9-11 ^

25

21

19

30

5

65

46

2005 Nov 11-13

23

23

17

33

4

63

46

2005 Sep 16-18

21

22

20

34

3

63

43

^ = Asked of a half sample

10. Based on what you have heard or read, do you, personally, think Iraq is -- or is not -- in a state of civil war right now?

           

Yes, in state of
civil war

No, not state of
civil war

No
opinion

%

%

%

2006 Dec 8-10

76

22

2

 

 

 

2006 Sep 15-17

72

25

3

11. Just your best guess, how much longer do you think the U.S. will have a significant number of troops in Iraq -- less than six months, six months to a year, one to two years, or longer than two years?

Less
than six
months

Six
months
to a year

One to
two
years

Longer
than two
years

No
opinion

2006 Dec 8-10

2%

16

38

42

1

12. How much longer do you think the U.S. should have a significant number of troops in Iraq -- less than six months, six months to a year, one to two years, or longer than two years?

Less than
six
months

Six
months
to a
year


One to
two
years

Longer
than
two years

WITHDRAW 
ALL NOW (vol.)


No
opinion

2006 Dec 8-10

30%

25

25

14

2

3

(vol.) = Volunteered response

13. Do you think each of the following will, in the long run, be -- [ROTATED: better off, about the same, or worse off]-- as a result of the war with Iraq? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

2006 Dec 8-10
(sorted by "better off")

Better
off

Same

Worse
off

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

The strength and preparedness of the U.S. military

44

30

23

2

The Iraqi people

38

24

35

2

The war on terrorism

32

30

36

2

The people of the United States

28

36

36

1

Peace and stability in the Middle East

19

37

42

1

Relations between the U.S. and Middle East governments

18

31

49

2

The image of the U.S. around the world

14

25

60

1

14. How important is it that the United States succeeds in Iraq -- extremely important, very important, somewhat important, or not that important?

Extremely
important

Very
important

Somewhat
important

Not that
important

No
opinion

2006 Dec 8-10

29%

29

23

15

3

15. Now thinking about the benefits to the U.S. of succeeding in Iraq versus the costs the U.S. would have to bear to achieve them, do you think -- [ROTATED: the benefits outweigh the costs, (or) the costs outweigh the benefits]?

           

Benefits outweigh
costs

Costs outweigh
benefits

No
opinion

2006 Dec 8-10

33%

64

3

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