Gen. Petraeus is doing his best to convince the American people that the surge is working. The Bush administration is, in turn, hoping that Petraeus’ optimistic views will rally support for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely. But judging from the current state of public opinion, these will be very difficult objectives to meet.
The five most recent public opinion polls, all conducted in early September, have found that—even when the question is worded in a variety of ways—only about a third of the American public believes the surge is improving the situation in Iraq. This includes 28 percent of respondents in an ABC/Washington Post poll, 32 percent in a Gallup poll, 33 percent in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 35 percent in a CBS/New York Times poll, and 36 percent in an AP-Ipsos poll.
There’s also the issue of whether to stay or go. A BBC World Service poll of 23,000 people across 22 countries found that a strong majority of those surveyed—67 percent—think U.S.-led forces should leave Iraq either immediately (39 percent) or within a year (28 percent). This may not be surprising given how unpopular the Iraq war has become worldwide, but it is striking how close the American public’s views are to the 22-nation average. The survey’s U.S. sample nears worldwide averages, with 61 percent saying that U.S.-led forces should either withdraw immediately (24 percent) or within a year (37 percent).
Moreover, a solid majority—55 percent—of the American public now supports legislation that would withdraw U.S. combat forces from Iraq by next spring, according to an early September ABC/Washington Post poll. This is considerably faster than a one-year timetable.
It’s going to take a lot more than Gen. Petraeus’s testimony and the White House spin machine to turn around these sentiments, both globally and in this country.
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