As President Obama and his staff weigh their difficult choices in the Afghanistan theater, the public also appears to be finding it difficult to judge the merits of different options for expanding, maintaining or contracting the U.S. effort on that front. A Pew Research Center survey taken in mid-September found a significant drop in the proportion of the public in favor of keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan until the situation there is stable. Only half (50%) now choose that option, while 43% favor removing troops as soon as possible. As recently as June, 57% favored troop retention.
Other recent polls find the public divided over the question of increasing U.S. troop deployments, as recommended by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commanding general in Afghanistan. When asked simply if they favored sending more troops or not, both an Oct. 21 ABC News/Washington Post poll and an Oct. 8 Gallup poll found the public roughly divided. However, the 48% favoring more troops in the Gallup survey represented a seven-point increase over the percentage expressing support just two weeks earlier.
The ABC News poll analysis also noted that support in their survey for additional troop deployments was higher when compared with differently worded questions, perhaps because their question notes that the military leadership had requested an increase. Differences in results associated with small changes in question wording are a measure of the lack of consensus among the public in regard to Afghanistan and the malleability of views in the face of changing developments.
Read the full report Public Divided Over Afghan Troop Requests, But Still Sees Rationale for War on the Pew Research Center's Web site.