Majority in Poll Favor Deadline For Iraq Pullout

By Dan Balz and Jon Cohen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, February 27, 2007

With Congress preparing for renewed debate over President Bush's Iraq policies, a majority of Americans now support setting a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces from the war-torn nation and support putting new conditions on the military that could limit the number of personnel available for duty there, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Opposition to Bush's plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq remained strong. Two in three Americans registered their disapproval, with 56 percent saying they strongly object. The House recently passed a nonbinding resolution opposing the new deployments, but Republicans have blocked consideration of such a measure in the Senate.

Senate Democrats, led by Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (Mich.) and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), are preparing another resolution that would have the effect of taking away the authority Bush was granted in 2002 to go to war. The measure would seek to have virtually all combat forces withdrawn from Iraq by the end of March 2008.

The Post-ABC poll found that 53 percent of Americans favored setting a deadline for troop withdrawals. Among those who favored a deadline, 24 percent said they would like to see U.S. forces out within six months and 21 percent called for the withdrawals to be completed within a year. The rest of those who supported a timetable said they do not support withdrawing all troops until at least a year from now.

This is the first time a Post-ABC News poll has found that a majority of Americans supported establishing such a timetable for withdrawal, which has long been resisted by the president and even some Democrats.

Growing numbers of Americans also favored withdrawing U.S. forces even if civil order in Iraq has not been restored. The poll found that 42 percent favored keeping troops there until order is reestablished, while 56 percent said the troops should be redeployed to avoid further U.S. casualties, even if the sectarian violence is continuing.

Some Democrats have called for cutting off money for the war. The Post-ABC News poll found that 46 percent of Americans supported restricting funding while a bare majority, 51 percent, opposed doing so.

There was clear support, however, for the kinds of conditions proposed by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), who wants to establish requirements for the training and resting of military units that would have the effect of limiting the number of troops available to send to Iraq.

Murtha's plan has drawn fire in the House, including from some of his Democratic colleagues, after it was announced on a liberal Web site. The Post-ABC News poll, which did not associate the plan with Murtha, found that 58 percent of Americans said they support such new rules. Even some Americans, 21 percent, who supported the president's troop increase said they would favor rules for training and resting troops.

On questions relating to withdrawing troops or setting conditions on the military, there was a substantial gender gap. For example, 51 percent of men said they favored keeping troops in Iraq until civil order is restored, while 35 percent of women supported such a course.

Nearly seven in 10 women supported establishing some rules for training and rest time for troops to limit the number available for duty in Iraq, and 47 percent of men favored those limits. Similarly, a majority of men opposed setting any deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq, while an even larger majority of women would like to see a deadline established.

The poll also registered a new low on the question of whether the Iraq war was worth fighting. Thirty-four percent responded that it was, while 64 percent said it was not -- 51 percent strongly. On this question, 51 percent of military veterans and 53 percent of veteran households said they strongly believe that the war was not worth fighting.

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