NEW YORK – A new FOX News poll finds that Americans overwhelmingly see Iraq finalizing its government as a victory -- and most see the death of terrorist leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi that way as well. President George W. Bush’s job approval rating is out of the thirties for the first time since February and currently stands at 40 percent. In addition, there is widespread confidence the military will fully investigate allegations U.S. troops killed several civilians in Haditha, and a clear majority thinks almost all U.S. troops are treating Iraqi people with respect.
President Bush’s approval rating is up 5 percentage points to 40 percent this month, up from 35 percent approval in mid-May. Just over half of Americans disapprove (52 percent).
Much of the increase in support comes from the president’s party. Fully 82 percent of Republicans say they approve of Bush’s job performance, up from 71 percent last month and a low of 66 percent in April. Overall, the president hit a record low of 33 percent approval in April 18-19.
Even with the recent progress in Iraq’s government and a surprise visit to Baghdad, the president’s ratings for handling the situation there are down from earlier in the year. Today, 37 percent of Americans approve of his handling of Iraq, down from 40 percent in January, and 58 percent disapprove, up from 55 percent.
Ratings for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld look a lot like the president’s: 38 percent approve of the job Rumsfeld is doing and 50 percent disapprove.
Last week, the Iraqi parliament approved the final three cabinet appointments, thus completing Iraq’s new government. Americans are pleased with this progress: 38 percent describe it as a "major" victory and another 48 percent a "minor" victory. Only one in 10 think finalizing the new government appointments is not a victory.
Political leanings play a role here: More than twice as many Republicans (58 percent) as Democrats (23 percent) describe Iraq finalizing its new government as a "major" victory.
Views are mixed on the larger issue of U.S. military action in Iraq, as 43 percent of Americans say the action will ultimately make the United States safer, but half says no, it will not. These results are similar to those from two years ago when 39 percent said action in Iraq would make the U.S. safer and 46 percent disagreed (June 2004).
Overall, Americans give the edge to the insurgents as being more determined: almost half (49 percent) think the insurgents are more determined to try to obtain power than the Iraqis are to build a new government (40 percent).
On the same day the new government was finalized, it was announced that Al Zarqawi, an Al Qaeda leader in Iraq, had been killed in a U.S. air strike. Here again, most Americans consider this event a victory: 31 percent describe it as a "major" victory in the war on terrorism and 46 percent a "minor" victory.
Even though most Americans describe Zarqawi’s death as a victory, significantly more people think his death will make no difference in Iraq in the long run (59 percent) than think it should be viewed as a "real turning point" for the war (33 percent).
On the home front, a slim 52 percent majority thinks the United States is safer without Zarqawi. Most Republicans (77 percent) think the country is safer, while most Democrats disagree (62 percent). Among independents: 47 percent say safer, 48 percent not safer.
More than half of Americans think the Bush administration deserves credit for getting Zarqawi, including 29 percent who say "a lot" of credit and 30 percent who say "some" credit.
In addition, 41 percent say the terrorist leader’s death has made them more confident in the administration’s strategy for handling Iraq, and another 71 percent say it has made them more confident in the military and its intelligence capabilities.
Pictures of Zarqawi’s dead body accompanied the announcement of his death, and opinion is sharply divided on whether it was necessary to do so: 45 percent say it was necessary for the United States to release the pictures and 49 percent disagree.
Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from June 13 to June 14. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
Americans are confident the military will fully investigate the Haditha incident and prosecute troops found to be responsible for wrongdoing. According to the poll, more than seven in 10 say they are confident in the military investigating Haditha: 36 percent "very" confident and another 35 percent "somewhat" confident.
Furthermore, a majority of Americans (61 percent) says the allegations do not make them question the character of U.S. troops overall, though a somewhat sizable minority (35 percent) says the allegations do make them concerned.
About three-quarters of the public (74 percent) think incidents of troops mistreating Iraqi civilians are isolated -- four times as many as think the problem is widespread (18 percent).
Similarly, when asked how many U.S. troops serving in Iraq are "decent people doing an excellent job and treating Iraqi people with respect," a 57 percent majority agrees that describes at least 98 percent of U.S. troops.
"Taken together these numbers suggest that Americans are not repeating the Vietnam era mistake of blaming the troops for the consequences of the policy, but instead are blaming the policymakers," comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. "As we’ve seen in survey after survey, Americans are tired of hearing bad news about Iraq. The death of Zarqawi and the finalization of the government are ‘good news’ for change but Americans clearly don’t see them as another of the ‘turning points’ that have disappointed them in the past."