The Washington Post

Poll: More Americans disapprove of Obama’s management of Afghanistan war

More Americans disapprove of President Obama’s management of the war in Afghanistan than support it, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, a finding that reflects the public’s broader concern over the course of the nearly decade-old conflict.

Americans have given Obama wide leeway in escalating the conflict in Afghanistan, which as a presidential candidate he called “the war we have to win.” That latitude is changing — and fairly quickly — as the longer-running of the two wars he inherited approaches the 10-year mark.

In the Post-ABC News survey released Monday, 49 percent of respondents said they disapprove of Obama’s management of the war and 44 percent voiced approval. The disapproval mark is the highest on record in Post-ABC News polling. Overall, the figures have essentially flipped since January, the last time the poll asked the question. In that survey, 49 percent approved of Obama’s handling of the Afghanistan war and 41 percent disapproved.

The change in public opinion comes at the start of the annual fighting season in Afghanistan, a period that U.S. military commanders have warned will probably be more intense than previous ones as the Taliban seeks to retake ground lost to U.S. forces over the past year.

After a months-long strategy review in fall 2009, Obama announced that he would send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan in hopes of changing the course of the war. He also set July 2011 as the date he would begin pulling out those forces, putting U.S. commanders and Afghan leaders under pressure to show progress over that time.

In recent months, U.S. military officials have described battlefield achievements against the Taliban, including in some of its traditional strongholds. But they have also warned that the gains remain “fragile and reversible.”

There are about 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, twice the number in Iraq.

On Monday, Obama met with his senior national security team at the White House for a monthly assessment session, as the debate over how quickly to begin withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan this summer and how many to pull out gains momentum.

But at a time of rising concern at home about the national fiscal health, the American public is clearly tired of the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, according to the Post-ABC News poll.

Last month, the survey revealed that nearly two-thirds of Americans think the war is no longer worth fighting, the highest number recorded in response to that question.

The steadily waning support for the war — and Obama’s stewardship of it — might have political implications as the president fights for reelection.

The poll released Monday showed that a majority of self-identified independents — 53 percent — disapprove of Obama’s handling of the war.

Independents were an essential part of the coalition that elected him in 2008, and the White House has been seeking to win back those voters as 2012 nears.

The last time the Post-ABC News poll recorded such high dissatisfaction among independents over Obama’s management of the Afghanistan war was in November 2009, the month before he announced his new surge strategy. It is only the second time that a majority of independents have said they disapprove of his approach.

Partisan lines are also deeply drawn over the issue.

Although half of the Republican respondents in last month’s poll said the war remains worth fighting, nearly 70 percent of Republicans in the latest survey said they disapprove of Obama’s handling of it.

Among Democratic respondents, 30 percent disapproved.

The telephone poll was conducted April 14 to 17 among a random national sample of 1,001 adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Scott Wilson is the chief White House correspondent for the Washington Post. Previously, he was the paper’s deputy Assistant Managing Editor/Foreign News after serving as a correspondent in Latin America and in the Middle East.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
New Hampshire has voted. The Democrats debate on Thursday. Get caught up on the race.
The Post's Philip Rucker and Robert Costa say...
For Trump, the victory here was sweet vindication, showing that his atypical campaign could prevail largely on the power of celebrity and saturation media coverage. But there was also potential for concern in Tuesday's outcome. Trump faces doubts about his discipline as a candidate and whether he can build his support beyond the levels he has shown in the polls.
The Post's John Wagner and Anne Gearan say...
Hillary Clinton, who was declared the winner of the Iowa caucuses last week by the narrowest of margins, now finds herself struggling to right her once-formidable campaign against a self-described democratic socialist whom she has accused of selling pipe dreams to his supporters.
People have every right to be angry. But they're also hungry for solutions.
Hillary Clinton, in her New Hampshire primary night speech
I am going to be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.
Donald Trump, in his New Hampshire primary victory speech
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
See results from N.H.
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.