POLL: Views on Iraq Unchanged Despite Better Casualty Reports

Nearly six in 10 people see no progress restoring civil order in Iraq.

ByABC News
February 19, 2009, 12:48 AM

Nov. 6, 2007 — -- 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.