A new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll finds a 44 percent plurality of Americans say Obama is handling the drawdown from the Afghanistan war “about right.” Roughly three in 10 (29 percent) say he is not withdrawing quickly enough and 14 percent say he is moving too quickly. The survey was conducted after Obama’s primetime address last Wednesday detailing his plan to bring home 10,000 troops by the end of the year and 23,000 more by next summer. More than seven in 10 adults in a Post-ABC poll earlier this month supported removing a substantial number of troops this summer, but fewer - 43 percent - said they thought it would actually happen.
Two countervailing trends in Afghanistan war attitudes – higher support for the war among Republicans and higher support for Obama’s handling of it among Democrats – have produced an awkward dynamic in which support for Obama’s Afghanistan policies among partisans is detached from approval of his handling of the war overall.
Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say the war has been worth fighting, a consistent trend in Post-ABC polling since 2007. But while 62 percent of Republicans supported Obama’s 30,000 troop surge in late 2010, just 28 percent in the same poll approved of how Obama was handling the war itself. Indeed, more Republicans have disapproved than approved of Obama on Afghanistan both before and after the surge was announced. In the new Post-Pew survey, 25 percent of Republicans say Obama’s approach to withdrawing troops is “about right,” but opposition now comes from both hawkish and dovish corners of the GOP – 28 percent say he’s withdrawing too quickly while 32 percent say he’s not removing troops quickly enough.
Democrats, by contrast, have given Obama consistent support on Afghanistan even as they opposed the substance of his policies and judged the war as not worth its costs. Even before Obama was elected, majorities of Democrats said the Afghan war was not worth fighting, and his own partisans split 48 to 49 percent over supporting the proposed troop surge in a December 2010 poll. Still, Obama’s approval for handling Afghanistan has never fallen below 60 percent among Democrats since he entered office, and stands at 71 percent in the most recent Post-ABC News poll. In the new Post-Pew survey following his primetime speech last week, 66 percent of Democrats say his approach is “about right” while 21 percent prefer an even quicker withdrawal.