Most Americans expect the country will be at war with Iraq relatively soon, even as support for ousting Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein drops to its lowest level this year.
In a FOX News poll conducted earlier this week by Opinion Dynamics Corporation, 81 percent of Americans say it is likely that the U.S. will go to war with Iraq in the next year (41 percent "very" likely and 40 percent "somewhat" likely). After weeks of debate on the issue, and with the war on terror marking its one-year anniversary, only 13 percent think war with Iraq is unlikely.
As President Bush attempts to persuade the international community that action must be taken, the level of public support for removing Saddam is at 66 percent, down from 72 percent two months ago and from a high of 77 percent in November 2001.
While there is almost no gender gap in support for ousting Saddam from power (65 percent of women and 68 percent of men support removal), a wide partisan gap exists. Seventy-six percent of Republicans support the action, compared to 61 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents. Over the last several months there has been only slight erosion in support among Republicans (7 points), but much more so among Democrats (11 points) and independents (14 points).
Furthermore, if Bush is unable to rally support from the U.N. Security Council and other allies, support for action erodes. While about half of the public (51 percent) believes the U.S. should consider acting alone, 40 percent would go along with our allies.
Not surprisingly, support for Saddam's removal is stronger among those who believe Iraq currently has nuclear weapons. Overall, about two-thirds of Americans (69 percent) believe Iraq already has nukes and, of those, 74 percent back military action. Among those who do not believe Saddam has nuclear weapons, support for action is only 49 percent.
Women are much more likely than men to believe Iraq has nuclear weapons (79 percent compared to 58 percent). Young people and lower income groups also strongly believe Saddam has access to nukes.
Support for U.S. military action is also high among those who believe Iraq would try to use nuclear weapons against the U.S. About three-quarters of Americans (76 percent) believe Iraq would use nukes against the nation if it could and, of those, 76 percent support removing Saddam from power. Only 31 percent of those who do not think he would use nukes support the U.S. taking action.
"The level of support for taking action clearly depends on the credibility of the threat that the public think he poses," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "As the administration tries to make its case to the allies, it will also have to reinforce the belief among Americans that there is a need for action based on real danger. If this perception is diminished, data suggest that support will drop as well."
Finally, support is strongest among those who believe inaction is too risky. Vice President Dick Cheney has been out in front on Iraq for the Bush administration with the mantra of "the risks of inaction are far greater than the risk of action." A majority of Americans (62 percent) agrees with Cheney and, of those, fully 83 percent back U.S. action to topple Saddam.
Polling was conducted by telephone Sept. 8-9 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
1. Do you support or oppose U.S. military action to remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein?
* Wording: "...action against Iraq and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein"
2. Do you agree or disagree with a statement Vice President Dick Cheney made recently with regard to Iraq that, quote, "The risks of inaction are far greater than the risk of action"?
3. Do you believe that Iraq currently has nuclear weapons?
4. If Iraq has or if it were to obtain nuclear weapons, do you believe Iraq would attempt to use them against the United States?
5. If other countries in the international alliance oppose military action against Iraq, do you think it is more important for the U.S. to go along with its allies, or is it more important for the U.S. to maintain its ability to act alone if necessary to protect U.S. citizens?
6. How likely do you think it is that the U.S. will be at war with Iraq in the next year? Is it: