09/05/2007 - No question looms larger on the national scene than how Americans will react to the progress reported by Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker when they testify before Congress next week. A look at the course of opinions about the Iraq conflict over the past few years suggests that two crucial but opposing factors in American thinking will likely shape the public's response. The first is the growing perception that the war is a failing enterprise. The second is the public's continuing awareness of the risks associated with a hasty retreat.
Public calls for troop withdrawals have strengthened over the past two years as Americans have come increasingly to believe that the United States is engaged in a war with no prospect of success.
For first two years of the conflict, Americans largely believed that the war effort was going at least fairly well and that the U.S. should not with draw its troops until the situation in Iraq was stable. By October 2005, however, a 53%-majority of the public had come to the view that the U.S. military effort in Iraq was not succeeding.
This shift in opinion coincided with another important change in public attitudes. That month, for the first time since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, as many Americans said they favored withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq "as soon as possible" as said they favored keeping U.S. troops in Iraq "until the situation there has stabilized."
Read the full analysis What Could Convince Americans to Stay the Course in Iraq? on the Pew Research Center Web site.