09/18/2007 - Last week’s congressional testimony by General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, followed by President Bush’s address to the nation, has not changed bottom-line public attitudes toward the war in Iraq. However, there has been a modest increase in positive views about the U.S. military effort, accompanied by largely positive public reactions to General Petraeus’ recommendations, according to the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
Most Americans (57%) who heard at least something about Petraeus’ report say they approve of his recommendations for troop withdrawals, which President Bush has endorsed. However, just 16% say Petraeus’ statements have made them more optimistic about the war, while 67% say their views were unchanged by the general’s report.
The mostly stable opinions about the war and U.S. policies toward Iraq are consistent with this assessment. In the current survey, a 47% plurality says the United States will probably or definitely fail to achieve its goals in Iraq, which is largely unchanged from July (49%). Most important, opinions about whether to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq have not changed at all over the past two months: 54% believe U.S. forces should be brought home as soon as possible while 39% say U.S. troops should remain in Iraq until the situation is stable.
The survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Sept. 12-16 among 1,501 adults, finds there has been modest improvement in public perceptions of the U.S. military effort in Iraq. Currently, 41% say the U.S. military effort is going very or fairly well, up from 36% in July. Relative to earlier in the year, more today say America is making progress in reducing civilian casualties, defeating the insurgents militarily, and preventing terrorists from establishing bases in Iraq from which they can attack elsewhere.
But the public’s outlook on the situation in Iraq is hardly rosy. In fact, the balance of opinion is the most negative when it comes to preventing a civil war between religious and ethnic groups in Iraq – a 57% majority believes the United States is losing ground on this front. In addition, roughly half say the U.S. is losing ground in establishing democracy in Iraq (49%). Regarding the goal of getting Iraqi leaders to cooperate, only about a third (35%) see progress being achieved while 49% say the U.S. is losing ground.
View Petraeus' Proposals Backed, But No Lift in War Support on Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.