New Bush Iraq Plan Fails to Bolster American Confidence

Americans broadly reject President Bush's plan for a surge of U.S. forces into Iraq, with substantial majorities dismissing his arguments that it'll end the war more quickly and increase the odds of victory, an ABC News/Washington Post poll finds.

Indeed, rather than Bush bolstering public confidence, the national survey, conducted after his address to the nation on his new Iraq strategy, finds that a new high -- 57 percent -- think the United States is losing the war. Just 29 percent think it's winning.

These and other results underscore the depth of the challenge Bush faces in reversing public skepticism on Iraq. While 61 percent of Americans oppose his proposal to send more than 20,000 additional U.S. military forces there, 36 percent support it. Fifty-eight percent continue to say the war was not worth fighting -- essentially unchanged from a month ago -- while 64 percent disapprove of how he's handling the situation.

Barely three in 10 accept Bush's assertion that a troop increase now will end the war more quickly; instead two-thirds think it won't make much difference in the length of the conflict (48 percent) or instead will prolong it (19 percent). Similarly, while 36 percent think the surge will make victory more likely, more than six in 10 say it either won't change the odds of victory (53 percent) or will even make them worse (10 percent).

Intensity of sentiment, as well, is heavily against Bush. Just a quarter of Americans "strongly" support his proposal to send additional forces to Iraq; by contrast twice as many, 52 percent, strongly oppose it.

Nor do most Americans express faith in the Iraqi government, whose performance Bush portrayed as central in his strategy. Fifty-seven percent say they're not confident in the ability of the Iraqi government to meet its commitments in the effort to restore civil order.

Seven in 10, moreover, say U.S. military and economic aid to the Iraqis should be tied to their meeting performance benchmarks in stabilizing the country politically and economically -- a requirement Bush himself did not propose.

Notably, agreement on this question crosses partisan lines -- about seven in 10 Republicans, Democrats and independents alike agree on tying aid to performance by the Iraqi government.

Partisanship is rife elsewhere. On the surge, for example, 73 percent of Republicans are in favor; that dives to 39 percent of independents, and a mere 6 percent of Democrats.

Fight? -- Not everyone is spoiling for a political fight in Washington. While just more than six in 10 Americans oppose the surge, somewhat fewer, 53 percent, think the Democrats in Congress should try to block it. Instead, 44 percent think they should stand aside. That's because independents, who are more apt to shun political battles, divide almost evenly on this question, while Democrats and Republicans are diametrically opposed.

The Democrats also have a lessened advantage over Bush in overall trust to handle the situation in Iraq -- a 47 percent to 36 percent lead, down from 56 percent to 32 percent in their postelection high last month. More, 12 percent, instead now say they don't trust either party to deal with the situation -- perhaps a reflection of frustration with the available options.

Audience -- In perhaps another sign of fatigue, Bush's audience -- while broad by any standard -- was far below his peak. Forty-two percent say they watched or listened to any of his speech last night. By contrast, 72 percent watched Bush's address on March 17, 2003, when he announced a two-day deadline for the start of the war.

As is often the case, people who tuned in to the address Wednesday night were more favorably inclined toward Bush's proposals. In general, supporters are more apt to watch policy addresses, while opponents are more likely to find something else to do.

In this case, for instance, about half of Republicans tuned in, compared with 37 percent of Democrats. And the speech attracted 54 percent of Bush approvers on Iraq, but just 35 percent of disapprovers.

Better Trends for Bush -- A few trends are somewhat better for Bush than the overall views on his plan. Approval of his handling of the situation in Iraq is up by six points from last month, albeit just to 34 percent, and "strong" approval is up by nine points. But strong disapprovers still vastly outnumber strong approvers, 50 percent to 21 percent.

Also, the public divides about evenly on Bush's position that victory in Iraq is required for success in the war on terrorism more broadly: Forty-five percent accept this argument, while 47 percent reject it. This line of argument looks likes Bush's best prospect; among people who believe victory in Iraq is necessary, 66 percent support his proposed troop surge. Among those who say the war on terrorism can be won without victory in Iraq, by contrast, 87 percent oppose the surge.

One final result indicates that critics' use of language sometimes associated with the Vietnam War -- such as "escalation" -- hasn't influenced perceptions that the Iraq War will turn into a Vietnam-style involvement for the United States.

Forty-four percent of Americans see another Vietnam in Iraq, but that's essentially unchanged from this fall, and indeed from its level a year and a half ago.

Methodology -- This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Jan. 10, 2007, among a random national sample of 502 adults. The results have a 4.5-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

Click here for PDF version with charts and data table.

ABC News polls can be found at ABCNEWS.com here

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