Public's views on Iraq war barely budge
Bush's speech on Iraq and Petraeus's progress report on the 'surge' swayed few Americans, polls show.
In Florida, retiree Robert Lacey says he believes the US military "surge" in Iraq has failed. Iraqi politicians were supposed to take advantage of increased security to settle their differences peacefully, and "that hasn't happened," he notes.Skip to next paragraph
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San Diego saleswoman Connie Howard agrees. Her father, husband, and son all have served in the military, and her son-in-law, a marine, is set for an Iraq tour, but she still judges the war a folly. "I don't want to see any of them go," she says of troops on their way to Iraq. "It's enough."
But Doug Brown, a Lockheed Martin employee from Buffalo, N.Y., says US troops need to stay the course. "If we pull out now, everything we've done will collapse and we'll have to go back in again 10 years from now," he says.
The American public long ago reached a verdict regarding Iraq, and, for the Bush administration, it isn't a reassuring one. Most US voters have little confidence in the administration's Iraq strategy – though the White House does retain a core of committed support.
So far there is little evidence that President Bush's speech to the nation Sept. 13, or last week's testimony by the top US commander and the top US diplomat in Iraq explaining the outcome of the surge , changed matters. A CBS News poll released Monday found 63 percent of respondents judged that things are going badly in Iraq, while only 34 percent said they are going well – about the same percentage split as before Mr. Bush's address.
More than half of respondents to the CBS survey said the surge of additional US troops, which began in January, has had no impact.
A long, slow slide in support
The conflict in Iraq has now gone on so long that most Americans have had time to make up their minds about it, say opinion experts. While speeches and other events have caused upward blips in the polls in the past, in general public attitudes have shown a long, slow slide.
"Americans' perceptions of the situation in Iraq have steadily worsened since the outset of the war," writes Karlyn Bowman, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), in the most recent edition of her ongoing survey of public opinion and Iraq.
Take Maria Alessandro, a restaurant manager from Margate, Fla. She says she at first supported Bush and the war. "But the longer we are there, the worse it's been," she says.
Ms. Alessandro saw some of Gen. David Petraeus's testimony before Congress last week, and she thought the commander of multinational forces in Iraq seemed credible. Still, she is not sure everything he said was correct.
Alessandro wonders how well the US surge can be working – as General Petraeus contends it is – if bombs are still exploding in Baghdad and US and Iraqi troops are still being killed.
"It's clear the surge wasn't the success they wanted it to be," she says.
Doubts about Iraqi government
The US public also remains wary of the Iraqi government itself. Americans appear to have taken to heart Washington's message that Iraq's politicians have fallen short of their political goals, whatever the military results of the troop surge.