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Discontent Over Iraq Increasing, Poll Finds

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In April, the public, by a 25-point margin, trusted the Democrats over Bush to handle the situation in Iraq. In this poll, Democrats maintained an advantage, but by 16 points. There has been an erosion of support for Democrats on this issue, but not a corresponding movement to Bush. Among independents, trust for the Democrats is down eight points, mostly because of a six-point bump in the percentage who said they trust "neither."

Congressional Democrats also are preferred over Bush -- whose own approval ratings remain near career lows -- on immigration (by 17 percentage points), the economy (by 18 points) and even, albeit narrowly, on handling the U.S. campaign against terrorism (by six points).

But it is the war in Iraq -- the most important issue in the 2006 campaign -- that has the most potential to reshape the political landscape.

Overall, 61 percent in this poll said the war was not worth fighting, and nearly two-thirds said the United States is not making significant progress restoring civil order in Iraq. However, there is no such general agreement about what to do.

In this poll, 55 percent -- a new high -- said the number of U.S. military forces in Iraq should be decreased, but only 15 percent advocated an immediate withdrawal of American troops. An additional 12 percent said U.S. forces should be out of Iraq sometime this year.

Since the Iraqi parliamentary elections in November 2005, consistent majorities of Americans have said U.S. troops should be drawn down; support for an immediate, complete withdrawal has also remained relatively stable, never exceeding two in 10. And there similarly has been little change across party lines: 25 percent of the Democrats surveyed wanted all American military forces out of Iraq now, compared with 13 percent of independents and 6 percent of Republicans, with all percentages about the same as in late 2005. Support for the immediate removal of U.S. forces peaked at 32 percent among African Americans.

Public attitudes about the size of U.S. military forces in Iraq and about the war more generally are closely related to views about the centrality of the situation in Iraq to the broader battle against terrorism, another flashpoint between Bush and congressional Democrats. (In this poll, nearly six in 10 agreed with the Democratic position that the two are separate issues.) Overall, more than seven in 10 of those who said Iraq is an essential component of the terrorism fight wanted U.S. troop levels in Iraq to be increased or kept the same, while more than seven in 10 of those seeing the issues as separate thought that some or all troops should be withdrawn. Among independents who said the United States can succeed against terrorism without winning in Iraq, 70 percent supported decreasing troop levels, compared with 23 percent of those who saw victory in Iraq as pivotal.

This Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone May 29 to June 1 among a random sample of 1,205 adults. Results from the full poll have a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points. Sampling error margins are higher for subgroups.

Polling analyst Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.


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