A skeptical public expects little of this week's developments on Iraq: More than half of Americans think the Petraeus report will try to sugar-coat the real situation there, and two-thirds don't believe it will influence George W. Bush's war policy anyway.
Fifty-three percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll think Gen. David Petraeus' progress report on the "surge" of U.S. troops will try to make things look better than they really are; fewer, 39 percent, expect it to honestly reflect the situation in Iraq.
But in the public's eyes, it's not likely to matter in any case: Just 28 percent think Bush -- long seen as inflexible on the war -- will use the report to adjust his Iraq policy. Sixty-six percent think he'll stick with his war policy no matter what the Petraeus report says.
That policy remains broadly unpopular. Fewer than three in 10 think the surge has improved the situation in Iraq; 60 percent say the United States is not making significant progress toward the ultimate goal of restoring civil order there; and in a bottom-line measure, given its costs vs. benefits, 62 percent say the war in Iraq was not worth fighting. A majority has held that view steadily for more than two and a half years.
Americans, by nearly 2-1, disapprove of Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq, 65 percent to 34 percent -- around where it's been for most of the last year and a half. His broader job approval rating is almost identical: Just 33 percent approve of his work in office overall, matching his career low. He hasn't seen majority approval in an ABC/Post poll since January 2005.
Bush's approval rating among political independents -- the center of American politics -- is at a career low, 25 percent. He's also at 25 percent approval among people who describe themselves as ideological moderates, matching his low in that group.
There are a few better results for the administration. Forty-three percent think the surge will improve security over the next few months, up nine points from July. (Nonetheless, 54 percent think it won't improve security.) And while 43 percent think the United States will lose the war in Iraq, that's down from 51 percent in April. (Thirty-nine percent think the United States will win the war.)
The problems are not all about Bush's policy. Americans by a broad margin, 65-34 percent, also say they're not confident in the Iraqi government's ability to meet its commitments in the effort to restore civil order there. The lack of political consensus in Baghdad has been one of the administration's own complaints.
Given these concerns, 58 percent of Americans favor a decrease in the deployment of U.S. troops in Iraq (a new high, albeit by an insignificant two points over its July level); nearly all of them say a drawdown should start this year. Moreover, 55 percent (the same as in July) favor legislation that would set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. combat forces from Iraq by next spring.
There's little public acceptance of two of the chief arguments against withdrawal -- that leaving Iraq in its current state would make the United States more vulnerable, and indeed that victory in Iraq is necessary for victory in the broader U.S. war on terrorism.