Most in Poll Want War Funding Cut

By Jon Cohen and Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Most Americans oppose fully funding President Bush's $190 billion request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a sizable majority support an expansion of a children's health insurance bill he has promised to veto, putting Bush and many congressional Republicans on the wrong side of public opinion on upcoming foreign and domestic policy battles.

The new Washington Post-ABC News poll also shows deep dissatisfaction with the president and with Congress. Bush's approval rating stands at 33 percent, equal to his career low in Post-ABC polls. And just 29 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, its lowest approval rating in this poll since November 1995, when Republicans controlled both the House and Senate. It also represents a 14-point drop since Democrats took control in January.

Despite discontent with Congress this year, the public rates congressional Republicans (29 percent approve) lower than congressional Democrats (38 percent approve). When the parties are pitted directly against each other, the public broadly favors Democrats on Iraq, health care, the federal budget and the economy. Only on the issue of terrorism are Republicans at parity with Democrats.

Part of the displeasure with Congress stems from the stalemate between Democrats and the White House over Iraq policy. Most Americans do not believe Congress has gone far enough in opposing the war, with liberal Democrats especially critical of their party's failure to force the president into a significant change in policy.

At the same time, there is no consensus about the pace of any U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq. In July, nearly six in 10 said they wanted to decrease the number of troops there, but now a slim majority, 52 percent, think Bush's plan for removing some troops by next summer is either the right pace for withdrawal (38 percent) or too hasty (12 percent would like a slower reduction, and 2 percent want no force reduction). Fewer people (43 percent) want a quicker exit.

John Csanadi of Nanuet, N.Y., said he has mixed feelings about what to do next in Iraq. Asked about Bush's proposal for a modest drawdown of troops, he said: "It's a start. Not the best solution, but at least it's a start."

Sara Carter, a schoolteacher from Westland, Mich., called Bush's plan "better than it might be, not as good as it could be."

But Don Hiatt of Las Vegas said he sees the proposal as a holding action by a president stalling for time. "I think he's trying to just play it until he gets out of office and let the next president handle it, and that's not a good thing if that's what he's doing," Hiatt said.

Overall, 55 percent of Americans want congressional Democrats to do more to challenge the president's Iraq policies, while a third think the Democrats have gone too far. The level of agitation for more action in opposition to the war has not dissipated since August 2005, when Democrats were the minority party in Congress.

Lee Martin, an information technology consultant from Chicago, said that after last year's midterm elections, he and others anticipated a change in Iraq policy. "The reason Congress is down is they're [Democrats] in there and basically nothing is changing," he said.

Robert Holtzman of Philadelphia said there is not much Democrats can do, given the ability of Republicans to block most action in the Senate. Still, he expressed frustration: "I'm satisfied with the Democratic Congress on small things, but they haven't gotten it together on the bigger issues."

More than eight in 10 liberal Democrats said Congress has been too restrained, while about the same percentage of conservative Republicans said it has been too aggressive. A narrow majority of independents, 53 percent, want more congressional action.

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