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Public support for Iraqi occupation declines further

Source: Scripps Howard News Service
Date: March 01, 2004

Confidence in America's military involvement in Iraq has dropped to its lowest level since the war began _ slightly more than a quarter of U.S. adults say they are "very certain" the occupation of Iraq was the right thing to do.

According to the latest in a series of surveys about Iraq conducted by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University, nearly half say they are "not certain" the nation has done the right thing in sending troops into Iraq.

Support for a pre-emptive strike _ engaging a country like Iraq because of concerns that it may attack the United States in the future _ has also declined in recent months. The public appears to be evenly divided on whether the United States should consider deploying troops to countries other than Iraq or Afghanistan, if necessary, to combat terrorism.

President Bush's approval rating has also dropped in recent months with 48 percent saying they approve of the job he has done in the White House, the lowest of his presidency.

Scripps Howard began surveying public support for Iraqi operations starting in late 2002 during the military buildup for a U.S.-led invasion. There has never been a majority expressing strong confidence in the campaign.

The latest poll, conducted the final two weeks of February, found 28 percent "absolutely certain" it was the "correct thing to do" to "send troops into Iraq to force it to disarm its weapons of mass destruction," down from 41 percent in May immediately after Bush declared an end to major military operations in Iraq.

Twenty-two percent said they were "pretty certain," down from 25 percent in May; 47 percent said "not certain," up from 31 percent in May. Three percent were undecided in both polls.

Men are much more likely to support military operations in Iraq than are women, with 31 percent of males saying they are "very certain" compared to 23 percent of women. Non-Hispanic white people tended to be twice as likely to support the military operations than are blacks or other racial minorities.

Political conservatives _ especially those who say they are "strong Republicans" _ are much more likely to support Iraq operations than are Democrats, independents, liberals or moderates.

Support for "our policy of preventative military attacks on countries that we feel threaten our national security" has also dropped slightly. In the latest poll, 47 percent said they "strongly agree" or "agree" with the policy of pre-emptive strikes, while 32 percent "disagree" or "strongly disagree." The rest were either undecided or were neutral on the question.

Half of adults in a similar survey 10 months ago said they agree with a pre-emptive strike policy, while 24 percent disagreed.

When asked "should the United States send troops to countries other than Iraq and Afghanistan in order to combat terrorism," 42 percent said "yes" and 43 percent said "no." The rest were uncertain or gave other answers.

Support for a broader military campaign against terrorism, if necessary, was much greater in a survey taken a year ago. Then, 58 percent supported military operations outside Iraq or Afghanistan while 26 percent were opposed.

The latest survey was conducted at the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University among 1,013 adult residents of the United States interviewed Feb. 15-29 by telephone. It was funded by a grant from the Scripps Foundation.

All of the polls cited in this report have a margin of error of 4 percentage points, although the margin increases when examining attitudes among smaller groups within the poll.