NEW YORK – The public is divided on whether sending more U.S. troops to Iraq has helped the situation there or not. In addition, a small majority approves of Congress setting a deadline for withdrawal, despite most acknowledging the likelihood that insurgents will pinpoint that date to increase their attacks in Iraq. These are just some of the findings from the latest FOX News poll.
Views are split on the success of the troop surge in Iraq: while a 45 percent plurality thinks the surge has failed to make much of a difference, 40 percent think it has led to improvements (14 percent "major" and 26 percent "minor" improvements).
Republicans (58 percent) are more than twice as likely as Democrats (25 percent) to think the U.S. troop surge has led to improvements in Iraq.
Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from April 17 to April 18. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
Slightly more people think Congress rather than the president should decide when troops leave Iraq. Some 33 percent think it should be up to Congress to decide and 29 percent say the president should. Another 25 percent think "both" should decide.
By 54 percent to 42 percent Americans say they approve of Congress setting a deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. The partisan gap is once again worth noting, as 78 percent of Democrats approve of the deadline and 70 percent of Republicans disapprove.
Despite majority approval for setting a deadline, there is widespread consensus that doing so will encourage insurgent attacks. A large 70 percent majority of Americans thinks it is either "very" likely (42 percent) or "somewhat" likely (28 percent) that insurgents will increase their attacks in Iraq starting on the exact day U.S. troops withdraw.
"It really highlights the hopelessness many Americans see in Iraq that majorities of voters both support setting a deadline for withdrawal and expect insurgent attacks to increase on that very day," comments ODC Vice President Chris Anderson. "There is a sense that the U.S. troop presence is just delaying the inevitable."
Some in Washington have started talking about the withdrawal date as a "surrender" date. A third of Americans (33 percent) agree with this characterization, while a majority disagrees (61 percent).
"Americans have become so frustrated by the war they are now willing to contemplate words like ‘surrender’ which they would not have countenanced a couple of years ago," comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. "The people are in a very sour mood."
The public thinks lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are using the Iraq war as a political tool — though a bit more point the finger at Republicans. By 70 percent to 23 percent, voters say Democrats in Congress are playing politics rather than sticking to their principles. As for Republicans, 74 percent say playing politics and 17 percent say sticking to their principles.
Iraq continues to be a popular topic among friends and neighbors. When asked which subject comes up most often in everyday conversations, gas prices (21 percent) tops the list, followed closely by Iraq (18 percent). All other topics are fairly far behind, with the next most frequently mentioned being the economy/jobs (7 percent), politics (7 percent) and the shooting at Virginia Tech (5 percent).
Should Gonzales Resign?
The poll finds mixed feelings on whether Alberto Gonzales should resign as attorney general. In the wake of the controversy surrounding the firing of eight federal prosecutors from the Justice Department, nearly equal numbers say Gonzales should resign (36 percent) as say he should stay (32 percent) and are unsure (32 percent).
More than twice as many Democrats (52 percent) as Republicans (18 percent) think Gonzales should resign.
After an initial postponement because of the Virginia Tech shootings, Gonzales was scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.