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AP Poll: Most see Iraq war as failure

AP | September 11, 2007
ALAN FRAM

The public sees the Iraq war as a failure and thinks the U.S. troop buildup there has not worked, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll suggesting the tough sell President Bush faces in asking Congress and voters for more time.

The pessimism expressed by most people including significant minorities of Republicans contrasted with the brighter picture offered by Gen. David Petraeus. The chief U.S. commander in Iraq told Congress on Monday that the added 30,000 troops have largely achieved their military goals and could probably leave by next summer, though he conceded there has been scant political progress.

By 59 percent to 34 percent, more people said they believe history will judge the Iraq war a complete or partial failure than a success. Those calling it a failure included eight in 10 Democrats, three in 10 Republicans and about six in 10 independents, the poll showed ominous numbers for a president who hopes to use a nationally televised address later this week to keep GOP lawmakers from joining Democratic calls for a withdrawal.

"We cannot take any of this administration's assertions on Iraq at face value anymore," said Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., a war foe and senior member of the House Armed Services Committee. "And no amount of charts or statistics will improve its credibility."

Underscoring the public's negativity, four times as many predicted the war in Iraq would be judged as a complete U.S. failure as the number who see a complete success, 28 percent to 7 percent.

When the Gallup Poll asked the same question in September 2006, 52 percent said the war will be judged as a partial or complete failure, seven points fewer than the AP-Ipsos survey.

"The enemy was in Afghanistan, and I believe going into Iraq we took our eye off the ball," said Ann Bock, 66, a retired teacher and Democratic-leaning voter from Edmond, Okla., who participated in the survey.

In the poll taken in the days just before Petraeus' long-awaited appearance more people rated the troop increase a flop than a success by 58 percent to 36 percent, with three in 10 Republicans joining majorities of Democrats and independents in foreseeing failure.

Positive reviews of the troop increase were at about the same level as they were in mid-January, just after Bush announced the buildup.

That didn't match Petraeus' appraisal.

"In the face of tough enemies in the brutal summer heat of Iraq, coalition and Iraqi security forces have achieved progress in the security arena," he told House lawmakers. He later added, "I believe Iraq's problems will require a long-term effort. There are no easy answers or quick solutions."

People calling it a mistake to go to war in March 2003 outnumbered those calling it the right decision by 57 percent to 37 percent, numbers that have stayed about level for more than a year. About a quarter of Republicans, along with most Democrats and independents, labeled the war an error.

Among those in the poll supporting the conflict is Ronald Shaul, 62, a Republican and retired military intelligence officer.

"It was a logical outgrowth of the war on terror, started long ago by Islamic extremists," said Shaul, who lives in Hopkinsville, Ky.

Overall, those viewing the war and the troop buildup most negatively tended to be groups that often lean Democratic: females, minorities, those with lower incomes and those with less education.

For example, about two-thirds of women and half of men said the troop increase had not worked, while more minorities than whites said the war had been a mistake.

But the war remains unpopular with another group crucial to both political parties: moderates. Nearly two-thirds of them said the war and troop increase were failing and that the conflict was a mistake from the start.

Two groups that normally support the Bush administration white evangelical voters and conservatives remained largely behind its war strategy.

Just over half of the white evangelicals who attend church at least weekly said the war was the right decision and the extra troops were helping, while about four in 10 said the war is a success well more than Catholics and Protestants measured in the survey.

Slight majorities of conservatives saw success in Iraq, a troop increase that is working and a war that was the right choice, a third of them or more answered each question negatively.

In another indication of how uncertainty over the conflict is felt even by its supporters, of those who said going to war was the right decision, fully one-fifth said it will be viewed as a failure and about a quarter said the troop increase has not worked.

The poll was conducted Sept. 6-9 and involved telephone interviews with 1,000 adults. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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