Support for Keeping Troops in Iraq Stabilizes; More Say Iraq War Hurts Fight Against Terrorism

  • July 21, 2005
  • By Andrew Kohut

A growing number of Americans believe that the war in Iraq has undermined the U.S. struggle against terrorism. Nearly half (47%) say the war in Iraq has hurt the war on terrorism, the highest percentage expressing that view since the war began in March 2003. Nonetheless, public support for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, which had risen steadily since last October, has leveled off. And despite the public's doubts about the war and its impact on the war on terror, Americans have not given up hope for a successful outcome on Iraq.

In the aftermath of the July 7 bombings in London, more Americans said that the war in Iraq is raising the risk of terrorism in this country. Currently, 45% believe that the war has raised the chances for terrorist attacks in the U.S., up from 36% last fall.

However, bottom-line support for the war has not eroded, even in the face of intensifying violence in Iraq. Roughly half of the public favors maintaining U.S. forces in Iraq until the country is stabilized (52%), and about the same number support the original decision to go to war (49%). The issue of whether to set a timetable on the U.S. military involvement in Iraq also splits the public almost evenly – 49% say the U.S. should set a timetable, while 45% disagree.

This national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted July 13-17, 2005, among 1,502 adults, finds that 60% say it is at least probable that the U.S. will succeed in establishing a stable government in Iraq; just a third say the U.S. is likely to fail. While there is a large partisan divide on this measure, and on virtually every issue related to the war, nearly half of Democrats (45%) say the United States will probably or definitely succeed in establishing a stable democratic government in the country.

Although most opinions on Iraq have been stable in recent months, the public has become increasingly critical of President Bush's handling of the war. Just 27% say Bush has a clear plan for bringing the situation in Iraq to a successful conclusion – the lowest percentage expressing that view since the start of the war. By more than three-to-one (72%-23%), independents say Bush lacks a clear plan for ending the war.