Recent reports of fewer casualties in Iraq haven't altered most Americans' perceptions of the war: Fifty-nine percent still don't think the United States is making significant progress restoring civil order there, and a record six in 10 want the level of U.S. forces reduced.
Those results in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll seem to reflect a continued hardening of attitudes on Iraq. Views on progress are unchanged from early September, and they haven't been positive since December 2005, shortly after the Iraqi elections.
Authorities have reported a decline in violence in October. Nonetheless, 2007 has been the deadliest year overall for U.S. military forces in Iraq. Sixty percent favor withdrawing U.S. forces, a new high (by a scant 2 points from September), while just 9 percent favor increasing troop levels, matching the low set in December 2005. At the same time, relatively few, 17 percent, favor an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces, matching its average in polls since 2006.
All told, 63 percent say the war was not worth fighting, almost exactly its average this year, and a majority, steadily since December 2004. Intensity against the war continues to run high, with 51 percent saying they feel "strongly" that it was not worth fighting, more than double its strong supporters.
ISSUE — Discontent with the war has hammered the president's approval rating, his party's, and now the Democrats' in Congress, as well. As reported Sunday, 45 percent name it as the first or second most important issue in their vote for president next year, well ahead of the economy and health care, next at 29 and 27 percent, respectively.
It works to the Democrats' advantage; they hold a 16-point lead over the Republicans, 50 percent to 34 percent, in trust to handle the situation in Iraq, the largest Democratic advantage on the war since it began. That's despite a sharp drop in congressional Democrats' overall approval rating, from 54 percent in April to 36 percent now.
Views on Iraq directly inform preferences on the country's direction after the Bush presidency. Among people who think the war was worth fighting, 49 percent say the next president should follow the same direction as Bush; but among the more than six in 10 who are war opponents, 91 percent want the next president to take new direction.
GROUPS — Partisanship fuels views on the war, with Democrats overwhelmingly holding negative views, Republicans more positive ones. Most political independents are critical of the war, though they fall precisely between Democrats and Republicans on the question of decreasing the deployment of U.S. forces. (Fifty-eight percent of independents favor cutting the deployment, compared with 82 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of Republicans.)
Core Democratic constituencies — single women, blacks and liberals — are among the most anti-war. Ninety-one percent of liberal Democrats, 85 percent of blacks, and 76 percent of single women say the war was not worth fighting; similarly high levels in each group don't see progress restoring order.
Core Republican groups are much more apt to support the war — but in smaller numbers than their opposites oppose it. Seventy-three percent of conservative Republicans see progress restoring order in Iraq, as do 51 percent of evangelical white Protestants.
METHODOLOGY — This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Oct. 29 - Nov. 1, 2007, among a random national sample of 1,131 adults, including an oversample of African-Americans for a total of 203 black respondents (weighted back to their correct share of the national population). The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.