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Few americans believe war over { April 18 2003 }

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April 18, 2003

Only 3 in 10 Americans Believe War Is Over
Support for war remains high, at 73%

by Jeffrey M. Jones

PRINCETON, NJ -- A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows that relatively few Americans think the war with Iraq is over. About half still see some minor fighting left for the United States, while one in six believe there are still major battles to be fought. Assessments of the United States' progress in the war are decidedly positive. Overall support for the war remains high, with 73% saying the situation in Iraq is worth going to war over. Seven in 10 Americans approve of the job George W. Bush is doing as president, roughly where this measure has been since the war began.

The poll, conducted April 14-16, finds 31% of Americans saying the war with Iraq is over "for all intents and purposes." Despite the fact that coalition forces control every major city in Iraq, two in three Americans think the war is not yet over, including 49% who say there is only minor fighting left for the United States in the war, and 17% who say some major battles still lie ahead.

On the night Baghdad fell, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll showed just 15% of Americans believed the war was over, and Americans were about as likely to believe major battles still remained (37%) as to think that there was only minor fighting was left (44%). The new findings, thus, show a doubling of the percentage who say the war is over, although it is still clearly less than a majority.

Support for the War

Overall support for the war remains high. When asked if the situation in Iraq is worth going to war over, 73% of Americans say yes, while 23% say no. Since the war began, various measures of support for the war have shown about 7 in 10 Americans expressing approval of the effort.

The "worth going to war" question shows a typical pattern of Americans' support for the conflict in Iraq. In the early part of the year, a slight majority supported military action against Iraq. That number spiked to the 70% range once the war began, and since the fall of Baghdad it has inched up further.

During the war, Americans' assessments of how the war is going for the United States have generally been positive, although they have shown some fluctuation. In the early stages of the war, a majority said the war had gone "very well" for the United States. However, that number fell below a majority following reports of stronger-than-expected Iraqi resistance. But as American and British forces gained control of key Iraqi cities, a majority again said things were going very well. After Americans took control of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, the percentage increased yet again. The current poll shows 60% of the public saying the war is going very well for the United States, and an additional 33% saying it is going moderately well.

Now that much of the major fighting seems to be behind the United States military, there is growing speculation about the fate of Saddam Hussein. The United States made removing Saddam from power a key goal in the war. With his regime now collapsed, 55% of Americans say they would consider the war a victory even if the United States does not capture Saddam, and if there is no evidence that he has been killed. Forty-two percent would not consider the war a victory unless one of these happened. On the night Baghdad fell, Americans were more divided -- 50% said the war would be a victory even if there was no proof of Saddam's death or capture, while 48% disagreed.

Bush Approval Holds Steady

The new poll finds Bush's job approval rating at 71%, little changed from the last reading of April 7-9. While the 13-point surge in approval following the start of the war was one of the largest rally events Gallup has observed in its polling history, Bush apparently is not receiving an additional boost from the near-conclusion of the war, although this could be due in part to the fact that most Americans do not believe the war is over.

Like the current president, the elder George Bush showed a sharp increase in approval when the first Persian Gulf War began. However, at the conclusion of the war, the elder Bush's job rating received an additional boost. All in all, George H.W. Bush ended the first war with Iraq with an overall approval rating nearly 20 points higher than his son's current rating:


For the first time since Iraq became a major policy issue for the United States, George W. Bush's approval rating of his handling of Iraq (76%) is higher than his overall approval rating. Prior to the war, Bush's overall job rating was higher than his marks on the situation in Iraq. Once war began, the two ratings were essentially even.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,011 adults, 18 years and older, conducted April 14-16, 2003. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

All in all, do you think the current situation in Iraq is worth going to war over, or not?


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