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Behind the Numbers
Posted at 05:48 PM ET, 07/14/2008

New Poll Highlights: The War on the War

The new Washington Post-ABC News poll suggests that even with broad public doubts about the nation's success so far in Iraq and Afghanistan, managing the nation's military could be one of Barack Obama's main hurdles in the race for the White House.

Two groups stand out in the crosstabs from the new poll: independents and veterans. Independents are one of the main groups needed to win the White House, while the views of veterans reflect a group uniquely suited to assess the candidates on military affairs.

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Q: Obama has proposed a timetable to withdraw most U.S. forces from iraq within 16 months of his taking office. McCain has opposed a specific timetable and said events should dictate when troops are withdrawn. Which approach do you prefer - a timetable or no timetable?

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Support timetable

By party:

By party & gender:

Party identification is a bright dividing line in views on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and on the candidates' proposals, and independents are the battleground. Among this key group, the poll finds some easing of views on the war, and a slight tilt toward McCain on related issues:

  • A slim majority of independents, 53 percent, opposes Obama's timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq and 49 percent say they trust McCain to handle the issue. But as the chart above shows, independent women are far more favorable towards a timeline than independent men.
  • Rating the candidates as commanders in chief, McCain comes out ahead. More than four in 10 said McCain would be a good commander in chief but Obama would not, and just 16 percent feel that only Obama has the chops to lead the military. About three in 10 said both would be good, 6 percent think neither is a good option.
  • In the new poll, nearly half of independents, 47 percent, said the U.S. is making significant progress in Iraq, the highest level since 2005. About the same proportion said the military efforts in Afghanistan are succeeding.
  • Majorities of independents said both candidates have made their views on withdrawing troops from Iraq clear.

Veterans are one group well positioned to assess the two major candidates' positions on military affairs. For the most part, they favor McCain:

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"He would be a good commander in chief" (among veterans)

Barack Obama

John McCain

  • Overall, 84 percent of veterans say McCain would be a good commander in chief, just 38 percent said the same of Obama.
  • And veterans give McCain a more than 20-point lead on handling the war in Iraq, and they broadly favor his view of troop withdrawal in Iraq. Nearly two-thirds said there should be no timetable for troop withdrawal.
  • But support for McCain does not translate into support for the Iraq war. Nearly six in 10 veterans said the war there was not worth fighting, while 65 percent said the war in Afghanistan was worthwhile.

All available data from the new poll are here.

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  05:48 PM ET, 07/14/2008

Categories:  Post Polls

 
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