April 16, 2007 -- A bare majority of Americans for the first time believe the United States will lose the war in Iraq, and a new high -- two-thirds -- say the war was not worth fighting. Yet the public divides on setting a deadline for withdrawal.
That mix of sentiments -- unhappy with the war, unclear what to do about it -- is keeping George W. Bush in deep disfavor. Just 35 percent approve of his job performance overall, a scant two points above his career low. And just 29 percent like how he's dealing with the situation in Iraq.
Moreover, in a shift, most Americans in this ABC News/Washington Post poll now reject Bush's argument that winning in Iraq is necessary to win the broader war against terrorism. Fifty-seven percent disagree with that contention, up from 47 percent in January. That echoes a change that appeared in January and continues today in which most (56 percent) now favor eventual withdrawal even if civil order is not restored.
Yet, given pro and con arguments (avoiding further casualties vs. potentially encouraging Iraqi insurgents), a pullout deadline is not widely popular.
The public divides about evenly, 51-48 percent, on setting any deadline. It's about the same specifically as on the effort by congressional Democrats to force withdrawal by no later than August 2008.
Democrats Lead Bush on Iraq but Broad Disapproval Pervades
Indeed, the Democrats in Congress haven't conclusively seized the reins on Iraq: Their approval for handling the war is low as well -- 37 percent.
Nonetheless, they do continue to lead Bush, now by 25 points, in trust to handle it. By a similar margin most (58 to 34 percent) say the Democrats are taking the stronger role in Washington overall.
With Bush into his third year without majority approval -- a trough unseen since Harry Truman's presidency -- the Democrats are benefiting in other ways. Just over 100 days into their regime, 54 percent approve of the way the Democrats in Congress are doing their jobs; just 39 percent approve of the Republicans.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a 53 percent approval rating, 18 points higher than Bush's (and 12 points higher than former Speaker Newt Gingrich's highest rating after the Republicans took control in 1995). And a shift toward Democratic self-identification that began after the Iraq War has accelerated this year.
Surge Plan Does Little to Sway Opinion
Specific to the war, Bush's "surge" of U.S. forces has not changed minds. The night he announced it, 61 percent opposed the idea. Today it's 65 percent. And 53 percent say the United States "is losing" the war, as well as the 51 percent who think it "will lose."
Expectations of losing the war have fluctuated; they're up 11 points since January but up a slighter five points since December. In December 2005, however, only 27 percent foresaw losing the war.
In another gauge, ABC/Post polls have asked three times if Americans were "hopeful" about the situation in Iraq. In March 2003, during the main fighting, it was 80 percent. In May 2004, 62 percent. Today, hopefulness about Iraq is down to 51 percent.
Congress Gets Higher Than Usual Low Marks
Congress as a whole has a 44 percent approval rating, a bit higher than its long-term average, 40 percent in data back 30 years.
As usual, people express a better view of their own representative's performance: Sixty-nine percent approve, compared with a long-term average (in this case since 1989) of 62 percent.
The somewhat better-than-average measures don't mean Congress is seen as highly productive: Just 26 percent think it's accomplished much (a "great deal" or "good amount") in the past three months.
The newly Republican 1995 Congress, which set more of a focus on the first 100 days, did marginally better -- 33 percent.
In addition to his weak ratings overall and on Iraq, Bush hit new lows (by a single point) in this poll in his approval ratings for handling terrorism and ethics in government, and tied his low on handling immigration. The Democrats do better on each of these, save immigration.
There are now customary deep divisions among partisan and ideological groups. Just 12 percent of Democrats, 15 percent of blacks (the most loyal Democratic group) and 16 percent of liberals approve of Bush's job performance. By contrast, 71 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of conservatives remain by his side. In the political middle, 30 percent of moderates and 32 percent of independents approve.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone April 12-15, 2007, among a random national sample of 1,141 adults, including an oversample of African-Americans. The results from the full survey have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.