Poll: U.S. Split On Pre-Emptive Attack

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While a majority of Americans continues to support U.S. action to remove Saddam Hussein from power, the public is split on the larger issue of taking pre-emptive strikes.

The latest FOX News poll conducted by Opinion Dynamics Corporation shows that 58 percent of Americans support taking military action against Iraq. Similarly, 59 percent say they would vote for the resolution before Congress to authorize President Bush to use troops against Iraq (51 percent of Democrats would vote for the resolution compared to 72 percent of Republicans).

The overall support of 58 percent can be broken down into two parts -- 28 percent would back action against Iraq with the current level of allied support and 23 percent say action should be taken "only with significantly more allied support" (the remaining seven percent are unsure).

"Almost all the polling data available suggest that right now Americans are divided into three almost equally sized groups," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "One third pretty much unconditionally support action against Iraq; one third pretty much always oppose it; and one third will support or oppose it depending on the level of allied support and other conditions. This is the group that will be decisive in determining the political ramifications of any action."

When asked whether the U.S. should attack first if it is believed that a country (not directly mentioning Iraq) will attack the U.S., people are split. Just over one-third (36 percent) oppose pre-emptive strikes, one-third say yes the U.S. should attack first, and just under one-third (31 percent) are unsure or say "it depends."

Most Americans are following the debate about Iraq. Almost half (49 percent) say they are following the discussion "very closely" and another 37 percent "somewhat closely." Only three percent say they are not following the situation at all.

The public's support for U.S. action against Iraq is driven, at least in part, by skepticism about the agreements that are currently in place. A solid majority (74 percent) thinks Hussein will "never" give weapons inspectors total access for their searches, and about one-third think it is unlikely the United Nations will enforce its existing resolutions that require Iraq give up efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Twice as many Americans view Iraq as an indirect threat than as a direct threat. Over half of the public (55 percent) is more concerned that Iraq will supply weapons to terrorists, while about one-quarter (23 percent) are more concerned that Iraq will attack the United States, and 15 percent think both possibilities are of equal concern.

Whether action to topple Hussein is part of the country's war on terrorism is unclear. Exactly half would include the situation with Iraq as part of the war on terrorism, but over one-third of Americans (38 percent) think military action against Hussein is separate from the larger war on terror.

As President Bush continues to make the case for action, his overall job approval rating holds steady at 65 percent. Fully 70 percent approve of the job he is doing handling terrorism, compared to 52 percent who approve how he is managing the economy.

Polling was conducted by telephone September 24-25, 2002 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ± 3 percentage points.

1. In your everyday conversations with friends and neighbors, what topic would you say comes up most often these days? (OPEN ENDED)

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

3. Do you approve or disapprove of the job President Bush is doing handling terrorism?

* Wording: "responding to the terrorist attacks"

4. Do you approve or disapprove of the job President Bush is doing managing the economy?

5. How closely are you following the discussion about whether the U.S. should use military action to remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power?

6. Do you support or oppose U.S. military action to remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein?

* Wording: " . . .action against Iraq and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein"

7. (IF SUPPORT) Do you support the United States taking military action with the current level of allied support or only if we have significantly more allied support?

6. - 7. Combined

8. In your opinion, is U.S. military action against Iraq a part of the overall war on terrorism or is it separate from the war on terror?

9. If YOU were in Congress, how would you vote on the proposed resolution authorizing President Bush (quote) "to use United States Armed Forces to defend the national security interests of the United States against the threat posed by Iraq " (unquote)? Would you vote for or against the Iraq resolution?

10. Do you think Saddam Hussein will ever give weapons inspectors complete and total access, or not?

11. Are you more concerned that Iraq will attack the U.S. or are you more concerned that Iraq might supply nuclear and other weapons to terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda?

12. How likely do you think it is that the United Nations will enforce its existing resolutions that require Iraq give up efforts to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons?

13. Which comes closer to your opinion?