NEW YORK – Many Americans think at least half of Iraqi adults need to vote in the upcoming election for it to be legitimate, while at the same time nearly two-thirds say it will be very dangerous for Iraqis to go to the polls and vote. Opinion is divided on what the Iraq elections mean for U.S. troops stationed there, with almost equal numbers saying it is time to start bringing them home as saying troops should stay until more stability is established. These are some of the findings of the latest FOX News/Opinion Dynamics national poll.
An overwhelming majority of the public (93 percent) thinks it will be dangerous for Iraqis to vote in that country’s elections on January 30, with 65 percent saying it will be "very" dangerous and another 28 percent "somewhat" dangerous.
Even so, for the Iraqi elections (search ) to be legitimate the poll finds exactly half of Americans think turnout needs to be over 50 percent. For reference, turnout in the 2004 U.S. presidential election was 60.7 percent, which was the highest since 1968 when turnout was 61.9 percent of eligible voters, according to the Center for the Study of the American Electorate. Turnout in the 2000 U.S. presidential election was approximately 54 percent.
If U.S. voters had to take the same risks Iraqi voters will have to take, a slim majority of Americans think turnout in this country would be less than 40 percent. Response was divided on whether "most people you know" would still vote if it required risking their life — 45 percent yes, 48 percent no.
"While on the surface Americans seem to be setting a high standard of legitimacy for the Iraqi people, they also seem to recognize that — given the same circumstances — we would likely fall far short of that standard. How they reconcile these feelings will determine their final judgment on the Iraqi elections," states Ernest Paicopolos, a principal of Opinion Dynamics.
Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News on January 25-26.
The public is divided on the future of U.S. troops in Iraq after this month’s elections. Nearly half (47 percent) think the United States should start bringing some troops home after the elections, while an almost equal number (46 percent) think troops should stay until the country is more stabilized. This reflects about the same level of division as seen in the wake of the June 2004 turnover of power to the Iraqis.
About 6 in 10 Americans think the Iraqi people are better off today because of the U.S. military action there, down 15 percentage points since March 2004. Part of that decline is explained by looking at the responses by political party.
Last year, majorities of both Republicans (90 percent) and Democrats (63 percent) agreed the Iraqi people were better off because of U.S. action. Today, while the number of Republicans that agree dropped 7 percentage points to 83 percent, the number of Democrats that agree has dropped 25 points to 38 percent.
More broadly, a slim majority (52 percent) of the public believes that setting up a democracy in Iraq would make the world safer from terrorism and 39 percent disagree. These results are similar to results from early last year when 53 percent agreed and 34 percent disagreed (March 2004).
Is Iran the next trouble spot? By 46 percent to 41 percent Americans oppose the United States taking action to keep Iran from developing (or further developing) a nuclear weapons program. A clear 60 percent majority of the public thinks Iran already has nukes, which could, at least in part, explain why Iran is one of the countries the public thinks most poses a danger to the United States.
Without being prompted by a read list, about one in four Americans (26 percent) name North Korea as the country that poses the greatest immediate danger to the United States, followed by Iran (18 percent), Iraq (11 percent) and China (8 percent). Recently Vice President Dick Cheney commented, "Iran is right at the top of the list" of trouble spots around the world and secretary of state designee Condoleezza Rice (search ) named both North Korea and Iran as "outposts of tyranny" during her Senate confirmation hearings.
Rating President Bush and His Inauguration Speech
In the week following George W. Bush’s second inauguration and preceding his State of the Union speech, half of Americans approve of the job he is doing as president, down 2 percentage points from earlier this month, and 40 percent disapprove.
Nearly half of the public (46 percent) say they either saw or heard President Bush’s inauguration speech last week and, of those, 26 percent give it an “excellent” rating, 35 percent "good," 19 percent "only fair" and 14 percent "poor."
In Bush’s speech he stated, "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands." A 57 percent majority of Americans agree with the president’s statement and 33 percent disagree. The partisan divisions here are striking, as 82 percent of Republicans agree compared to 33 percent of Democrats.
A large minority (42 percent) names New York Sen. Hillary Clinton as the person most likely to have been daydreaming during the inauguration ceremony about taking the oath herself four years from now, 13 percent think it was most likely Mass. Sen. John Kerry, 8 percent say former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and 7 percent Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Looking ahead to next week's State of the Union speech, the top three issues Americans are most interested in hearing President Bush talk about are Iraq (31 percent), Social Security (16 percent), and the economy (14 percent). Responses were unprompted, and no other issue received double-digit mentions.
• Pdf: Click here for full poll results.