March 18, 2010

Gloomy Americans Bash Congress, Are Divided on Obama

Section 5: Opinions About Afghanistan and Iraq

The public’s views of the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan continue to improve. Currently, 52% say the military effort is going very or fairly well, up from 46% in December 2009 and just 36% a month earlier.

Since early last year, there has been little change in opinions about whether the United States will succeed in achieving its goals in Afghanistan. Currently, 58% say the United States will definitely or probably succeed in achieving its goals there.

Public perceptions of how things are going in Afghanistan have improved, especially among older Americans and college graduates. The proportion of those 65 and older saying the U.S. military effort is going well has more than doubled since November 2009, from 28% to 59%. Those ages 50 to 64 also are much more positive: 57% now say the military effort is going very or fairly well, up from just 35% four months ago.

Among college graduates, 58% express positive opinions of the U.S. military effort, compared with 30% in November. There have been more modest gains in the percentages of those with some college (11 points) and with a high school education or less (nine points) saying the effort is going well.

More Republicans (61%) than Democrats (52%) and independents (50%) say the U.S. military effort is going well. Positive perceptions among all three groups have increased by about the same amount since November of last year.

There are similar partisan differences in opinions about whether the United States will succeed in achieving its goals in Afghanistan. Nearly seven-in-ten (69%) Republicans say the United States will definitely or probably succeed, compared with 58% of independents and 57% of Democrats.

Young people are more optimistic about the prospects for success in Afghanistan than are older Americans. About seven-in-ten (71%) under age 30 say the United States will definitely or probably succeed; fewer than six-in-ten in older age groups express this view.

Upbeat Views of Iraq

A majority of Americans also have a positive view of how the U.S. military effort in Iraq is going. Currently, 54% say the military effort is going very or fairly well, which is consistent with measures since the fall of 2008. Positive perceptions of the military effort in Iraq hit an all-time low in February 2007 (30%), but increased through 2007 and 2008, following former President Bush’s troop surge in Iraq.

Nearly six-in-ten Americans (59%) say the United States will definitely or probably succeed in achieving its goals in Iraq, which is little changed from December 2009 (63%).

Since early 2007, there has been a turnaround in the public’s perceptions of how things are going in Iraq. More also say the United States will succeed in achieving its goals there. In February 2007, a slim majority of Republicans (51%), 26% of independents and just 15% of Democrats said the U.S. military effort was going very or fairly well. In the new survey, 70% of Republicans and about half of independents (52%) and Democrats (49%) say things are going well in Iraq.

In February 2007, fewer than half of Americans (47%) said the United States would definitely or probably succeed in achieving its goals in Iraq. Since then, Republicans’ views about the prospects for success have changed very little – 77% said the U.S. would succeed, while 72% say that today.

Over the same period, Democrats and independents have become much more optimistic about whether the U.S. will succeed in Iraq. In February 2007, just 34% of Democrats said the U.S. would definitely or probably succeed in achieving its goals in Iraq. That number rose to 54% in January 2009 and is 56% in the current poll. There has been a comparable shift among independents. Three years ago, just 40% of independents said the U.S. would succeed; that rose to 62% in January 2009 and is 60% today.