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Public Opinion of the War in Afghanistan

Public Opinion of the War in Afghanistan


PRINCETON, NJ -- As may be inevitable, there has been an increase in negative press coverage of the war in Afghanistan. Reports have focused on the lack of progress, civilian casualties, and the fact that the Taliban seems to remain strongly entrenched in power.

On the plus side, there have been virtually no reports of U.S. casualties, with the exception of the two soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Pakistan as the military action began.

Nothing yet appears to have made a fundamental change in Americans' attitudes about the war. The public is resolute in its support. Eighty-eight percent approved of the military action in the latest Gallup poll. Polls released by Newsweek over the Oct. 26 weekend and by CBS and the New York Times on Tuesday, based on interviewing conducted Oct. 25-28, also showed 88% approval for the war.

Despite the high levels of support for the war, there is no great groundswell of optimism that the United States will achieve its military objectives.

Previous Gallup polling has shown that only a little less than half of Americans think that the United States and its allies are winning the war against terrorism. The recent Newsweek poll shows that only about four out of 10 Americans think it is very likely that the United States will succeed in removing the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. Even fewer think that it is very likely that the United States will be able to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. The CBS/New York Times poll shows that 28% say they are very confident that the United States will capture or kill Osama bin Laden, while another 42% say it is somewhat likely -- those figures are lower than polling conducted earlier in October. Also, only a quarter of Americans in the CBS/New York Times poll say that the war is going "very well."

While a majority of Americans have a positive opinion of the Afghan people (as opposed to the Taliban or to Osama bin Laden), there is a general acceptance on the part of Americans that civilian casualties may be a necessary part of war. In similar fashion, there is no strong sentiment, at this time, that the United States and its allies should be doing more to offer humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.

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