NEW YORK – A sizable majority of Americans consider the recent Iraqi elections (search) legitimate, according to a new FOX News Poll, and many Americans are optimistic about that country’s future. Over half think it is more likely Iraq will be governed by a democracy five years down the road than by a dictator. The poll also finds the public evenly divided on whether the Iraqi elections justify U.S. involvement there.
Two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) say, based on what is known so far, the Iraqi elections were legitimate, 14 percent disagree and 20 percent are either unsure or think it is too soon to tell. Over 8 in 10 Republicans think the elections were legitimate, as do 55 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents.
Overall, 56 percent of the public predict democracy will take hold in Iraq and say it is more likely the country will be run by some form of a democracy five years from now, while 28 percent think it will have a dictatorship.
Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News on February 8-9.
Sharp divisions remain on the question of whether going to war with Iraq was the right thing for the United States to do. Today 46 percent think the action was the right thing to do, down from 50 percent in June 2004, and 49 percent now say it was wrong, up from 42 percent.
Huge partisan differences come into play here, as 79 percent of Republicans think going to war with Iraq was the right thing to do compared to 17 percent of Democrats and 42 percent of independents. In addition, men are more likely than women to say it was the right thing to do (51 percent and 42 percent respectively).
There is a similar split — 46 percent to 44 percent — on whether the Iraqi elections justify U.S. involvement there. Again, partisanship is evident: three times as many Republicans as Democrats say the recent elections justify U.S. action in Iraq.
"It is clear that despite the elections both here and in Iraq, the country remains polarized about this war," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "The imminent election of Howard Dean, the leading anti-war Democrat, as DNC chair is likely to further cement this polarization as it is likely he will make opposition to the war a central theme in his attacks on the administration."
Now that the Iraqi elections have been held, there has been increased speculation on when U.S. troops will come home. When asked how much longer the U.S. should keep a "significant number of troops" in Iraq, about a quarter of Americans (26 percent) say less than a year, 16 percent say one to two years and 8 percent say two to four years. Twenty-six percent volunteer the response "as long as it takes," and another 17 percent voluntarily reply that troops should be brought home now.
By a margin of 53 percent to 35 percent, the poll finds Americans think Iraqi citizens want U.S. troops to stay until the country is more stabilized rather than leave immediately.
Majorities of Americans agree with several statements made by President George W. Bush in his State of the Union (search) speech earlier this month on the condition of the country’s Social Security system. Many (57 percent) agree Social Security is in a state of crisis, most (82 percent) agree Americans have a "duty to reform" the system so it will be available for future generations, and a slim 51 percent majority agrees the system will go bankrupt if no action is taken.
On the issue of personal or private investment accounts, over a third (37 percent) say they "generally understand" how these accounts would work, but many (59 percent) say they need more information.
Overall, almost half of Americans (48 percent) say they would want the choice to invest a portion of their Social Security savings in stocks and mutual funds. Among those under age 30, that number goes up to 58 percent; for those age 30-45, 59 percent want the option, as do over half (54 percent) of those age 46-55.
President Bush has some work to do on selling his proposal — right now a 41 percent plurality says they would be worse off if the president’s Social Security plan were to pass. Around a quarter of Americans (27 percent) say they would be better off and 14 percent say it makes "no difference."
The poll shows Democrats have the advantage as the political party people trust to handle Social Security — 40 percent trust Democrats and 34 percent Republicans, with 15 percent giving the unprompted reply that they trust "neither" party.
Rating the President
There was little movement in President Bush’s job approval rating this week — just over half (51 percent) of Americans approve and 43 percent disapprove.
Similar results are seen when the public is asked if Bush is "in touch" with what is going on in the country: 52 percent think Bush is in touch and 44 percent disagree. Not quite two years ago 68 percent said the president was in touch and 27 percent out of touch (June 2003).
Six in 10 Americans say they strongly (36 percent) or somewhat (24 percent) "like" George W. Bush as a person, including not only 91 percent of Republicans but also 36 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of independents. Last year 63 percent said they liked and 20 percent disliked Bush as a person (January 2004).
When focusing on the Bush administration’s policies, the familiar "nation divided" theme returns. Nearly half of Americans (47 percent) say they are satisfied with the administration’s policies and 45 percent are dissatisfied.
• Pdf: Click here for full poll results.