Polling Wars: Hawks vs. Doves

Nov 23, 2009

Though most Americans are not ready to cut and run, an increasing number are having second thoughts about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. Pew Research Center's November poll finds the number saying the initial decision to use force in that country was the right one has fallen to 56%, 8 percentage points below the level recorded in January.

By the same token, a late September Pew Research poll found that support among Americans for keeping U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan until the country is stable stood at 50% – a hefty seven point drop since June. This despite the fact that fully three-in-four Americans see a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan as a major threat to the well-being of the United States.

Yet even as enthusiasm for American involvement in Afghanistan has faded, the public has assumed a warlike stance on another front: Iran. In an October Pew Research survey, a substantial 61%-majority of Americans say that it is more important to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, even if it means taking military action. Far fewer (24%) say it is more important to avoid a military conflict with Iran, if it means that the country may acquire nuclear capability.

While only among Republicans is there substantial support for keeping troops in Afghanistan (71% favor staying until the situation there stabilizes), support for possibly initiating military action against Iran extends more broadly across the political spectrum. An identical 71% of Republicans are primed for armed conflict to prevent Iran from going nuclear, but in this case they are joined by 66% of independents and a 51%-majority of Democrats. And among Democrats, fewer than a third (31%) oppose military action should Iran acquire nuclear weapons.

Read the full commentary Polling Wars: Hawks vs. Doves on the Pew Research Center's Web site.

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