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Behind the Numbers
Posted at 12:02 PM ET, 03/19/2008

Iraq: Public Opinion Five Years In

Five years after the start of the Iraq war, American public opinion has solidified around the notion that the war was not worth fighting and that the United States is not making significant progress toward restoring civil order there.

For more than three years, majorities in Washington Post-ABC News polling have called the war's benefits not worth the costs. And the percentages calling the war a mistake have been higher than those saying it has been worth it since before the 2004 presidential election. Two-thirds in the latest poll said the war was not worth fighting, including 51 percent who felt so "strongly." (Check out a pre-primary analysis of public opinion on the war here).

But not everyone has turned on the war, which most Americans supported at the outset. Republicans have remained strongly behind the war since the outset, with more than two-thirds saying the was worth fighting in the most recent Post-ABC poll. Only a third of independents and one in eight Democrats agree.

Assessments of the current situation on the ground are somewhat more positive, and have improved since the deployment of additional troops to Iraq. Forty-three percent now say they believe the U.S. is making strides toward restoring security in Iraq, higher than it was in December 2006. But the percentage seeing progress has changed little over the past four months. Nearly eight in 10 Republicans said significant progress is being made, as did 40 percent of independents 24 percent of Democrats.

Iraqis themselves have a somewhat improved outlook on the state of life in their country, particularly the security situation. According to a survey of Iraqis conducted by ABC News and several international TV news outlets, 55 percent now say their lives are going well, a big bump up from 39 percent in August. However, 61 percent said the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq is making the security situation there worse. About three in 10 said American troops improve security. For more from the poll, click here.

Back in this country, the remarkable stability of American opinions on the war combined with a dramatically souring economy have contributed to the war's decline in importance in the ongoing presidential election campaign. In early September, more than a third cited the war as their top concern in choosing a president, while one in 10 named the economy. Five months later, the economy outweighed the war by 20 percentage points.

And President Bush's approval rating has been steadily dragged down by flagging assessments of the war in Iraq, and has not topped 50 percent in more than three years. In the most recent poll, only 32 percent approve of the job Bush is doing as president, tying his career low in Post-ABC polling.

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  12:02 PM ET, 03/19/2008

Categories:  Post Polls

 
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