December 7, 2010

Mixed Views on Tax Cuts, Support for START and Allowing Gays to Serve Openly

Section 3: Afghanistan and the Korean Crisis

Over the past six months, the public’s assessments of the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan have changed very little. Currently, 47% of Americans say the military effort there is going very (8%) or fairly well (39%). These perceptions were similar in both June (48% very/fairly well) and July (49%).

However, there has been a sharp decline in this period in the percentage saying the United States will succeed in achieving its goals in Afghanistan. Only about half (49%) now say the United States will definitely succeed (9%) or probably succeed (40%) in achieving its goals in Afghanistan; 39% say the U.S. will definitely (9%) or probably (30%) fail.

This is the most pessimistic the public has been on this question since it was first asked in January of 2009. Six months ago, a clear majority (59%) said the U.S. would achieve its goals, while 34% said it would fail.

The public also is less supportive of keeping U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan until the situation there has stabilized. In the new survey, 44% favor keeping the troops in Afghanistan while about as many (47%) say that the U.S. and NATO should remove their troops as soon as possible. In June, a majority (53%) said troops should remain until Afghanistan had stabilized; 40% said troops should be removed as soon as possible.

Support for keeping troops in Afghanistan has fallen sharply among Democrats.
Today, just 35% of Democrats say troops should remain until the situation has stabilized, while a majority (57%) says troops should be removed as soon as possible. As recently as June, half of Democrats (50%) thought troops should stay in Afghanistan until the country had stabilized.

A majority of Republicans (59%) continue to say troops should remain in Afghanistan; just 33% say troops should be removed as soon as possible. Independents are divided (45% keep troops, 47% remove troops).

There are no significant partisan differences in predictions for the success of the U.S. goals in Afghanistan, with about half of Democrats (49%), Republicans (54%) and independents (48%) now saying the U.S. will definitely or probably be successful.

Korean Attack – More of the Same?

Most Americans (78%) say they have heard at least a little about the recent North Korean attack on a South Korea island; 38% say they have heard a lot while 40% say they have heard a little. About one-in-five (22%) heard nothing at all about the attack.

Among those aware of the attack, 50% say it is similar to other incidents that have occurred in the past, while fewer (41%) say this represents a major increase in hostilities.

There are no significant partisan differences in opinions about the seriousness of this incident – roughly half of Republicans (50%), Democrats (47%) and independents (53%) say the attack is similar to other incidents that have occurred from time to time in the past.

People who have heard a lot about the attack are more likely to say it represents a major increase in hostilities between North and South Korea. Nearly half (48%) of those who have heard a lot about the incident express this view, compared with 35% of those who have heard a little about it.