FOX News Poll: Most Think Troop Surge Is Bush’s Last Chance in Iraq

A majority of Americans consider President Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq his last chance for victory there, according to a new FOX News poll.

Overall, the president’s plan receives only minority support, and that comes mainly from his party faithful. A large part of the public’s opposition to the plan could be based on the fact that most see it as a continuation of the same strategy, rather than as a real change.

Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from January 16 to January 17. The poll has a 3-point error margin.

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By 59 percent to 36 percent, Americans oppose sending more U.S. troops to Iraq, not only because most believe it is unlikely the plan will succeed, but also because few voters see the plan Bush announced last week as a significant change to current policy.

The level of support for sending additional troops to Iraq is remarkably similar to Bush’s job rating. Roughly one in three Americans — 35 percent — approves of the job Bush is doing, down slightly from 38 percent approval in early December, and just 2 percentage points above his record low of 33 percent (April 2006). A 58 percent majority disapproves of the president’s job performance today.

Most people who approve of the job Bush is doing also support sending more troops to Iraq.

About one in four voters (24 percent) thinks the plan announced by Bush last week represents a "real change" in U.S. strategy in Iraq, while a majority — 61 percent — rejects that idea and says it is not a change in strategy at all.

"There simply isn’t enough ‘new direction’ in the president’s plan to convince people it is a new policy," comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman.

There is widespread sentiment that this is the president’s final opportunity in Iraq, as six in 10 (61 percent) think the new plan is Bush’s last chance for victory; 26 percent think he will be able to try again. This is an example of rare agreement on an extremely polarizing topic: 64 percent of Democrats as well as 61 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of independents consider the president’s plan his last chance for victory.

In case it wasn’t clear already, here’s a striking indication of how much the country is focusing on Iraq — fully 45 percent of Americans say Iraq is the most important issue facing the country today, more than double the number that said so six months ago (21 percent, July 2006). A year ago, 27 percent said the Iraq war was the country’s most important issue (January 2006).

Only one other issue even receives double-digit mentions; the next most frequently cited is health care at 10 percent, followed by the economy at 7 percent, terrorism/homeland security at 7 percent and immigration at 5 percent. It’s important to note that responses to this question are given spontaneously, without the aid of a list.

Some congressional opponents to the president’s plan have suggested they may use the "power of the purse" to prevent additional troops being sent to Baghdad. A clear majority of Americans — 57 percent — says if they were in Congress they would vote against funding the troop increase; 38 percent would vote for it.

On the broader question of cutting off all money for the war, views are more mixed. Just over half (52 percent) say they would vote to continue funding the current level of U.S. troops in Iraq, and 41 percent would vote against funding the war altogether to try to force a troop withdrawal.

On Capitol Hill this week, some lawmakers are proposing resolutions that would show Congressional opposition to the president’s Iraq plan. The poll asked Americans who should have a say in U.S. decisions on Iraq and it’s clear the public trusts the military the most — much more than Congress.

Over half (53 percent) think government decisions on Iraq should be influenced a "great deal" by U.S. military leaders in Iraq. The next highest group is the public itself: 43 percent think government decisions should be influenced by public opinion. Thirty percent think what Iraqi political leaders want should have a great deal of influence on policy decisions, 29 percent say Congress and 25 percent the Bush administration.

Influence on U.S. Decisions on Iraq

Should Have "Great Deal" of Influence:

Military leaders: 53 percent

U.S. citizens: 43 percent

Iraqi leaders: 30 percent

Congress: 29 percent

Bush administration: 25 percent

A sizable minority is optimistic that the president’s plan will work. About one in four think it is either very (10 percent) or somewhat (29 percent) likely the plan will succeed, 27 percent think it is not very likely to succeed and another 25 percent say not at all likely.

Even though a majority opposes Bush’s new plan and many are doubtful it can succeed, that does not mean they want it to fail: 63 percent of Americans say they want the plan to succeed, including 79 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of independents and 51 percent of Democrats.

On the larger political front, more people think "most Democrats" want the Bush plan to fail and for him to have to withdraw troops in defeat (48 percent), than think Democrats want the plan to succeed and lead to a stable Iraq (32 percent).

Do Iraqis Want Victory as Much as Americans Do?

Some opposition to sending more troops to Iraq could come from the feeling that Americans want to win this war more than the Iraqis do. When asked who is more determined and fighting harder for a free, stable government in Iraq, 64 percent say the United States is, compared to only 14 percent that say Iraq. Another 14 percent say "both."

What will happen if the United States loses the war? Views are mixed, as nearly half of Americans (46 percent) believe terrorists would be encouraged to attack the United States again, while almost as many (43 percent) think losing in Iraq will make no difference to whether there are future attacks.

There is broad public agreement that withdrawing troops would make Usama bin Laden happy. A 60 percent majority of Americans believes bin Laden would consider it a victory if the United States were to leave Iraq before the country is stabilized.