Poll: Most Oppose Troop Buildup

Poll: Most Oppose Troop Buildup
January 18th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Poll: Most Oppose Troop Buildup

Poll: Most Oppose Troop Buildup
Los Angeles Times
January 18, 2007
Pg. 1
The Times/Bloomberg Poll

Resistance to the war and distrust of Bush have grown, a new Times/Bloomberg survey shows.
By Ronald Brownstein, Times Staff Writer
WASHINGTON A strong majority of Americans opposes President Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq, and about half of the country wants Congress to block the deployment, a Times/Bloomberg poll has found.
As he seeks to chart a new course in Iraq, Bush also faces pervasive resistance to and skepticism about the U.S. commitment more than three-fifths of those surveyed said the war was not worth fighting, and only one-third approved of his handling of the conflict.
And in a striking measure of people's declining trust in Bush, half said they believed he deliberately misled the U.S. in making his case for invading Iraq.
This is Bush's weakest showing on these questions in a Times poll.
Asked about the president's recent announcement that he would dispatch an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq, three-fifths said they opposed the move, whereas just over one-third backed it.
Even Bush's political base showed signs of cracking: About one-fourth of Republicans said they did not believe the war was worth fighting, and a roughly equal number opposed the troop increase.
"I want us to get out; I want us to leave," said poll respondent Beth Anderson, a Republican from Belle Center, Ohio, who has a son in the Army.
Anderson, an X-ray technician, added: "I think I was one of the biggest, 'Yes, we need to go over there' . And then, little by little, it just got to be too long and too much, and the cost is, wow, awful."
The poll's findings drive home the extent to which Iraq has politically weakened Bush, whose reelection just more than two years ago stirred dreams among his advisors of cementing an enduring GOP electoral majority in Washington.
The results also underscore the immense challenge confronting Bush: The public's loss of faith in the war's direction, his handling of the conflict and questions about his credibility all make it more difficult for him to rally support for the new direction he argues is necessary to turn the tide.
The Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll, supervised by Times Poll Director Susan Pinkus, surveyed 1,344 adults nationwide by telephone Saturday through Tuesday. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
With attitudes about Iraq weighing heavily against him, Bush's overall job approval rating stood at 39%, with 59% disapproving. Those figures are comparable with what had been Bush's worst showing in a Times poll last winter, his approval rating was 38%, with 58% disapproving.
On Iraq, 33% approved of Bush's handling of the war, with 65% disapproving.
The sole ray of light for Bush in the poll may be signs of public ambivalence about how Congress should respond to his plans on Iraq. Despite the widespread opposition to the troop escalation, Americans divide more closely on whether lawmakers should try to stop it.
The public clearly wants Congress to address the issue in some fashion: Forty-five percent of those polled said Iraq should be Capitol Hill's first priority, more than double the next-closest issue (dealing with healthcare, which drew 20%).
A narrow majority 51% wants Congress to try to block Bush from sending more troops to Iraq, with 25% saying lawmakers should deny funding for the increase and 26% saying they should find other legislative measures to stop him. Forty-one percent said Congress should not attempt to stop Bush, and the rest were unsure.
Carl Edwards, a welder from Morganton, N.C., expressed the divided beliefs of many when he said he wanted Congress to try to prevent the new deployment, but worried about hurting troops already in the field.
"They should stop sending funds to [Bush for more troops], but not cut the military funds down to where it is hurting the soldiers," he said.
Americans divide in similar proportions when asked whether Congress should attempt to require Bush "to begin withdrawing the troops already in Iraq."
Exactly half said Congress should take steps to begin removing troops (42% opposed such an effort).
On the other hand, 48% were against Congress establishing a mandatory deadline for the withdrawal of all troops, whereas 45% said Congress should set such a deadline either by terminating funding (17%) or through other legislative means (28%).
Despite the conflict about Congress' role, responses to a succession of questions showed that a solid majority wanted the U.S. to begin extricating itself from Iraq rather than expanding its military commitment.
When asked how the U.S. should proceed, 30% said it should maintain troops in Iraq "for as long as it takes to win the war."
By contrast, nearly two-thirds wanted troop withdrawals to begin within the next year, with 46% saying the process should start over that period and 19% saying all troops should be sent home immediately.
Similarly, 60% agreed the U.S. should withdraw "most troops from Iraq by early 2008 while keeping military training forces there to assist and train Iraq troops." Opposing that idea were 31%.
These results closely tracked the reaction to Bush's decision to deploy more troops to Iraq 60% opposed it and 36% supported it.
"It's just too little, too late," said Charles Davis, a market research analyst and Democrat from New York.
Dale Sibley, a salesman in Clinton, Miss., typified those who backed Bush's decision to send more troops.
The deployment might create greater stability in Iraq and allow the U.S. to bring home its forces faster, said Sibley, a Republican. "I think [U.S. troops] have got to get the job done a little better before they can turn it over to the Iraqis," he said.
Part of Bush's problem is that relatively few of those polled shared Sibley's opinion that a troop increase would meaningfully improve conditions in Iraq. Twenty-seven percent said more U.S. troops would translate into less violence in Iraq; 24% said it would increase violence; and 43% said it would have no effect.
Kevin Steelman, a truck driver from Yadkinville, N.C., was among the skeptics. "It's going to be a never-ending battle," he said. "I don't foresee a big change by sending more troops over there."
Another key element of Bush's revised plan for Iraq a public works program for the country drew a more mixed but still skeptical response.
Though 55% said they did not believe the U.S. had a moral obligation to pay for Iraqi reconstruction, respondents divided closely on whether a public works program would discourage young Iraqis from joining the insurgency: Thirty-eight percent said it would and 43% said it would not, with the rest uncertain.
Most of those polled said that rather than Bush's plan, they would prefer that the administration follow the direction charted last month by the independent Iraq Study Group.
That panel, led by James A. Baker III, secretary of State during the presidency of Bush's father, and former Rep. Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.), proposed that the U.S. begin withdrawing troops from Iraq during the next year and talk with Iran and Syria about promoting stability in the region.
Asked to choose between that approach and Bush's new plan, 53% said they preferred the study group's recommendations nearly double the 28% that favored the president's proposal.
"If [Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice has to go Iran or Syria and talk, and there are 1,000 or 2,000 lives of American soldiers saved, that is cheaper than letting those soldiers die," said Democrat Daljit Bajwa, a real estate broker from La Habra.
Asked whether Bush "deliberately misled Congress and the American people" with his prewar claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, 50% said they agreed with that statement, and 44% said they did not.
But for most Americans, finding a way forward in Iraq apparently seems daunting enough without reopening arguments about the past half of those polled said they did not want Congress to hold hearings to investigate Bush's prewar claims.
Times Poll data management supervisor Claudia Vaughn contributed to this report.
Bush's plan
Q: Do you approve or disapprove of President Bush's plan to send approximately 22,000 additional U.S. troops into Iraq? Approve: 36%, Disapprove: 60%, Don't know: 4%

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