Despite its contentious history, most American voters appear to have made a positive judgment about the country's efforts in Iraq. Almost six in 10 (58 percent) voters think, overall, the United States "did the right thing" by going to war, according to the latest Fox News poll.
A little over one-third of voters (35 percent) take the opposite view -- that the U.S. "did the wrong thing" by becoming involved militarily in Iraq. From a partisan perspective, there is still division -- as 54 percent of Democrats think the U.S. did the wrong thing in Iraq, while only 14 percent of Republicans feel the same way. A slim majority of independents (52 percent) think the U.S. did the right thing in Iraq.
The national telephone poll was conducted for Fox News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 registered voters from September 1- September 2, 2010. For the total sample, the poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
An even larger share of voters (71 percent) expresses some level of agreement with the view that the Iraqi people are better off today because of the U.S.-led action, while 19 percent disagree.
There is somewhat less partisan difference on this issue, as 58 percent of Democrats agree Iraqis are better off after U.S. involvement. Both Republicans (91 percent) and independents (65 percent), express higher levels of agreement.
When the scope is widened to broader security concerns, about six in 10 voters (58 percent) agree the action made the United States and the world safer. Again, more than one-third (37 percent) takes the opposing view.
If Iraq is considered a success, who deserves the credit? Voters are pretty clear, as a 54-percent majority names former President George W. Bush as the person who should be acknowledged as most responsible for the success in Iraq. Some 19 percent think President Obama deserves the most credit. Some 14 percent volunteer the view that neither of the presidents, but instead the Iraqi people are most deserving of this accolade. Interestingly, Democrats are evenly divided on this question (34 percent Bush, 34 percent Obama).
In Obama's August 31 speech announcing the end of combat operations in Iraq, he did mention former President Bush. However -- by a two-and-one-half-to-one margin -- more voters feel he did not give Bush enough credit for "removing Saddam Hussein, helping Iraqis form a new government and creating the conditions that allowed for the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq" rather than too much credit (38-15 percent).
With regard to a projected timeline of U.S. military presence in Iraq, 44 percent think the U.S. should stay as long as necessary, while about one-third (36 percent) says a year or less.
All in all, voters seem to have moved past the divisions that formerly characterized the Iraq War debate and now judge the enterprise to have been -- overall at least -- a success.
Ernie Paicopolos is a Principal at Opinion Dynamics Corporation.