Poll: Public Unites Behind War

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After one week of fighting in Iraq, a large majority of Americans supports U.S. military action and approves of the way the war is being conducted.

The latest FOX News poll, conducted by Opinion Dynamics Corporation, finds that fully 78 percent of Americans support (66 percent “strongly” support) taking action to disarm Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power and 18 percent oppose. Earlier this month support for action was at 71 percent (54 percent “strongly” supported) with 20 percent opposed.

As was the case leading up to the conflict, strong partisan divisions remain. Support for action among Republicans is 30 percentage points higher than that of Democrats and almost 20 percentage points higher than independents. The gender divide is less striking, with 75 percent of women and 81 percent of men in support of the action in Iraq.

Support for the war is strongest among those who approve the job President Bush is doing and those who believe action in Iraq is part of the overall war on terrorism. Virtually all who approve of Bush’s job performance support action in Iraq (96 percent) compared to about a third of those who disapprove. Similarly, 93 percent of those who view Iraq as part of the war on terror support the current military action compared to 46 percent of those who see Iraq as a separate action.

The public overwhelmingly approves (83 percent) of President Bush’s order last Wednesday night, after his 48-hour ultimatum to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had expired, to attack the building where it was believed Saddam was located.

Since then, there has been much speculation about the status of Saddam’s health. The consensus among the public is that Saddam is still alive, with the plurality (48 percent) saying he is “alive and well” and 32 percent saying he is injured. Very few (four percent) think the Iraqi leader is dead.

"Clearly even many anti-war people were hoping that a quick, clean strike killing Saddam would be better for both Iraq and America than a prolonged battle," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "Now it appears that there will be a longer battle and we will have to monitor opinion closely as people react to changing news and events."

While most of the public think the war is going well for the U.S.-led troops (83 percent), that drops to just over one-third for those who think it is going “very” well. About one in 10 say the war is not going well. Overall, Americans think the United States and coalition allies are winning the war in Iraq. More than eight in 10 (84 percent) say the U.S.-led forces are winning, two percent say Iraq is and seven percent say neither side is winning.

In addition, most Americans (76 percent) approve of the way the war is being conducted, and a solid majority (69 percent) approves of the job President Bush is doing handling the situation with Iraq. About the same number give positive marks to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for his job performance (71 percent approve). Two-thirds approve of Bush’s overall job performance, up six points since earlier in the month.

More than half (58 percent) think the military attacks on Iraq have been about the right intensity, but some (29 percent), who appear to want more “shock and awe,” say the attacks have not been aggressive enough. Only six percent think the attacks on Iraq have been too harsh.

In polling prior to the start of the war, among both supporters and opponents of military action, there was widespread weariness with the ongoing uncertainty about taking action. Even so, today less than half of Americans (47 percent) say they are “relieved” the war has started. About a quarter say they are “disappointed” war has started and 17 percent say they have mixed feelings.

Overall, most Americans (70 percent) expect the war in Iraq will be over in less than a year. A hopeful 17 percent think the action will be over in weeks, the majority (53 percent) thinks the end of the war is months away, 10 percent say one year, and 11 percent think the war in Iraq will last more than a year. And when will it be clear that the war is over? More than half define victory as a combination of not only disarming Iraq, but also removing Saddam and Iraq holding free elections.

Feeling Safer Now Action Is Underway

By 48 percent to 34 percent the public says the U.S. military action in Iraq makes them feel safer because “action is being taken against terrorists” than say they feel less safe because action “might provoke more attacks.”

In addition, even as the Department of Homeland Security put the country back on high alert, fewer Americans think a terrorist attack is “very” likely today than at anytime in the last year. Now, 29 percent think another terrorist attack is “very” likely, down from 38 percent a month ago and 37 percent in December 2002.

However, the number thinking additional attacks are likely (very or somewhat likely) has held fairly steady over the last year and a half. Since October 2001, soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, about three-quarters of Americans have consistently said they think another terrorist attack is likely in the near future.

Finally, roughly six-in-ten Americans see the war in Iraq as part of the overall war on terrorism, up 11 percentage points since September 2002, while less than a third (30 percent) see Iraq as being separate from the war on terror, down from 38 percent six months ago.

Polling was conducted by telephone March 25-26, 2003 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ± 3 percentage points. Results are of registered voters, unless otherwise noted. LV = likely voters.

1. Do you approve or disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as president?

2. Do you approve or disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing handling the situation with Iraq?

3. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Donald Rumsfeld is doing as secretary of defense?

4. Do you have a generally favorable or unfavorable opinion of anti-war protestors?

5. Would you say you feel optimistic or pessimistic about the U.S. economy right now? (If optimistic/pessimistic, is that strongly or only somewhat?)

6. A year from now, do you think the stock market will be higher, lower or about the same as it is now?
SCALE: 1. Higher 2. Lower 3. The same 4. (Not sure)

7. Do you support or oppose the United States taking military action to disarm Iraq and remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein? Is that strongly (support/oppose) or only somewhat (support/oppose)?

*** From Oct 2002 to March 2003, " Do you support or oppose U.S. military action to disarm Iraq and remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein?"
** From Jan 2002 to Sept 2002, "Do you support or oppose U.S. military action to remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein?"
* November 2001, "Do you support or oppose U.S. military action against Iraq and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein?"

8. Do you approve or disapprove of President Bush’s order last Wednesday night to attack the building where it was believed Saddam Hussein was located?

9. Do you approve or disapprove of the way the war against Iraq is being conducted?

10. Now that war has started, do you feel more relieved or disappointed?

11. How well do you think the war with Iraq is going for the United States and coalition allies?

12. Have the Iraqi troops been fighting back more than you expected, less than you expected or is the Iraqi resistance about what you expected?

13. Do you think U.S. military attacks on Iraq have been too aggressive, not aggressive enough or about right?

14. If Iraqi troops retreat into Baghdad and use the civilian population as human shields, would you approve or disapprove of U.S.-led troops bombing and shelling the Iraqi troops even if civilian casualties were likely?

15. (If disapprove, n = 292) If bombing and shelling could save the lives of U.S. troops by making house-to-house fighting unnecessary, then would you approve or disapprove of bombing Iraqi troops who have retreated into Baghdad and are using the civilian population as human shields even if civilian casualties were likely?

Questions 14 and 15 combined:

16. Do you think military action in Iraq will be over in weeks, months, a year, or is the end more than a year away?

17. Who do you think is currently winning the war in Iraq?

18. Do you believe Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is dead, injured or alive and well?

19. What will tell us that the war in Iraq has been won? Is it:

20. Five years from now, do you think it is more likely that Iraq will have a democratically elected government or be governed by some form of a dictatorship?

21. Do you think French companies should be allowed to benefit by participating in rebuilding the Iraqi economy after the war is over even though the French government refused to help liberate Iraq?

22. In the last few weeks have you decided not to buy a product that you believe was made in France or Germany?

* Feb 2003, "Have you stopped buying products that you know or believe are made in France or Germany?"

23. Do you think American tourists should avoid taking trips to France in response to French opposition to U.S. policies on Iraq?

24. Do you think it is more important for citizens of other countries to like the United States or to respect the United States?

25. In your opinion, is U.S. military action against Iraq part of the overall war on terrorism or is it separate from the war on terror?
SCALE: 1. Action against Iraq is part of war on terrorism 2. Action against Iraq is separate from war on terror 3. (Not sure)

26. How worried are you that terrorist attacks might take place where you live or work?
SCALE: 1. Very worried 2. Somewhat worried 3. Not very worried 4. Not worried at all 5. (Not sure)

27. How likely do you think it is that another terrorist attack causing large numbers of American lives to be lost will happen in the near future?
SCALE: 1. Very likely 2. Somewhat likely 3. Not very likely 4. Not likely at all 5. (Not sure)

28. Does the U.S. military action in Iraq make you feel:
1. Safer, because action is being taken against terrorists, or
2. Less safe, because it might provoke more attacks by terrorists?
3. (Both/Mix)
4. (Not sure)

** Jan 2002, ". . . action in the war on terrorism make you feel"
* Nov 2002, ". . . action in Afghanistan make you feel"

29. Have you or members of your family made any emergency plans, such as stocking up on food and water, or mapping an escape route, in case a terrorist attack were to take place in your area?

30. How much do you trust the Pentagon to tell the whole truth about the U.S. military’s progress in the war with Iraq?