Changing Opinions on Iraq

Support for Operations in Iraq Fades

President Bush may still believe that war with Iraq is the right path, but the public begs to differ.

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President Bush may still believe the war in Iraq was the right thing to do, and that all in all, it has been worthwhile effort. The public, however, begs to differ. 

Take the question Gallup has been asking ever since the war started: “In view of the developments since we first sent our troops to Iraq, do you think the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq, or not?” The chart below shows the year-to-year progression of responses to this question, starting with the response Gallup got right after the initial invasion and ending with their most recent reading in early March of this year.

This year-to-year progression shows that the public started with an overwhelmingly positive judgment of the war—just 23 percent of Americans thought the war was a mistake in 2003. But this trend steadily reversed over time so that now 59 percent of Americans believe the war has been a mistake. It is worth noting that this 59 percent “mistake” figure is now just about as high as the peak response Gallup received to an analogous question during the Vietnam War—61 percent.

The same pattern may be seen in a question ABC News/Washington Post has been asking since the beginning of the war: “All in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war with Iraq was worth fighting, or not?” Right after the war started, 70 percent thought the war with Iraq was worth fighting, but year by year, that judgment has been reversed. Today, just 34 percent believe the war has been worth fighting and 64 percent believe the costs of the war have exceeded the benefits.

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Ruy Teixeira

Former Senior Fellow

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