Poll: President's Year-End Job Approval

This number has held steady since spring even as casualties have mounted, though it was higher on average in 2003. And it comes, as noted, even though seven in 10 Americans term the level of U.S. casualties in Iraq "unacceptable," up 26 points since June 2003.

Moreover, the majority's commitment to maintaining order in Iraq comes at a time of greater doubt that this goal is getting closer. Fewer than half, 44 percent, see significant U.S. progress toward restoring civil order in Iraq, down from 51 percent last summer.

The public divides, 48 percent to 44 percent, on whether there's been significant progress on another front, establishing a democratic government in Iraq. Fifty-eight percent say Iraq is not ready for the scheduled elections to be held -- and 54 percent don't think there will be honest elections with a fair and accurate vote count.


Iraqi Elections
Now2004 Average
YesNo
Is Iraq ready for elections?34%58
Should they be held as scheduled?6034
Will they be honest and fair?3654
Confident they'll produce a stable government?4454

However, six in 10 also say the elections should go forward despite these compunctions, likely reflecting a desire to move ahead toward restoring order and disengaging from Iraq whatever the difficulties in doing so. (Among those who say Iraq is not ready for the election, 40 percent say it should go forward nonetheless. But a split-sample test suggests that support for holding the election as scheduled is moveable: It's lower when the question is preceded by the one asking if Iraq is ready, and higher when readiness isn't raised first.)

As noted, the number of Americans who now say the war was not worth fighting is at a new high, up seven points from July. It's changed most sharply among younger adults.

Security

In evaluating this now-majority view that the war was not worth fighting, it's notable that the public is approaching an even division on another crucial question -- whether the war did or did not contribute to long-term U.S. security.

Today 51 percent say it did, but 46 percent say it did not -- matching the closest division to date on this question. In late 2003, by contrast, the public by a 28-point margin said the war had contributed to long-term U.S. security, its fundamental rationale.

Also, just 27 percent now say the war has contributed "a great deal" to U.S. security, the fewest to date, although it's never been high, peaking at 34 percent a year ago.


Has Iraq War Contributed to Long-Term Security?
Now2 Years Ago
Yes51%62
No4634

These views do much to inform broader perspectives on the war. Among people who think it has improved U.S. security, 67 percent approve of the way Bush is handling Iraq, and as many say the war was worth fighting. Among those who don't think it's improved security, these numbers dive to 13 percent and 14 percent, respectively.

Another security-related result brings better news for the administration: A sizable majority, 69 percent, think U.S. intelligence-gathering will be improved by the new intelligence structure created by legislation Bush signed last week. But this, too, is tempered: Just 18 percent think it'll improve the situation "a great deal."

Rumsfeld

Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.

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