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Behind the Numbers
Posted at 02:30 PM ET, 09/15/2009

Anti-War Stirrings Greet Call For More Troops

Fewer than half of all Americans see the war in Afghanistan as an essential front in the campaign against terrorism and just a quarter backs Admiral Michael Mullen's call to send more troops there, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

A slim majority, 51 percent, say the war itself has not been worth its costs, a negative baseline assessment that's unchanged from last month. Also essentially the same is tepid public backing for increased U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, just 26 percent back the idea. By contrast, 42 percent want to see the number of military forces decline; 28 percent say they should be "kept about the same."

Unsettling opinions about the war is that 48 percent now say the United States must win the war in Afghanistan for the broader war on terrorism to be a success, about as many, 45 percent say victory there is not critical. While this is not a big shift from previous poll, it's the first time the percentage seeing Afghan success as essential is under 50 percent. (This number never broke 47 percent for Iraq.)

Two-thirds of Republicans see an Afghan win as vital; a third of Democrats agree. Independents split 50 percent essential to 43 not essential on the question.

But troop levels are the topic of the day, and few across party lines back sending more; 39 percent of Republicans back increasing the number of U.S. forces, as do 27 percent of independents and 17 percent of Democrats. Fifty-six percent of Democrats and 63 percent of liberals prefer troop reductions.

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Q. Do you think the U.S. must win the war in Afghanistan in order for the broader war on terrorism to be a success, or do you think the war on terrorism can be a success without the U.S. winning the war in Afghanistan?

Q. Do you think the number of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan should be increased, decreased, or kept about the same?

Q. All in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war in Afghanistan was worth fighting, or not?

SOURCE: Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted by telephone Sept. 10-12, 2009 among a random national sample of 1,007 adults, including users of conventional and cellular telephones. Results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

By  |  02:30 PM ET, 09/15/2009

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