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Published: Friday, 9/1/2006

Bush, GOP poll numbers reflect angst over Iraq war

POLL after public opinion poll on Iraq shows an indisputable shift in American attitudes toward the nearly four-year-old Bush war. It is striking how the approval and disapproval numbers have all but reversed themselves since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March, 2003. Even FOX News, the unabashed Republican network, released polls with mood swings ominous for the GOP.

One of the latest gauges of how far the country has swung against the Bush war is evident in a Newsweek poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

The nationwide survey, done Aug. 24-25, asked respondents Do you approve or disapprove of the way Bush is handling the situation in Iraq? Of the 1,002 adults questioned, 63 percent disapproved, 31 percent approved, and 6 percent were unsure.

Compare those numbers with results taken May 1-2, 2003, that indicated 69 percent approving of the President s actions in Iraq, and 26 percent disapproving. Now flash ahead to Aug. 17-21 and another poll conducted by CBS News and the New York Times that asked 1,206 participants the same question posed by the Princeton survey with similar results disapproval 65 percent, approval 30 percent.

A glance at different polls done by different organizations at different times since the pre-emptive Iraq invasion reveals a gradual public transition from acceptance to angst. Americans have grown increasingly dismayed at how the Bush war is going thousands of deaths after the President deemed the mission accomplished.

Looking back, do you think the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, or should the U.S. have stayed out? asked the August CBS News/New York Times poll. Of those surveyed, 53 percent said the United States should have stayed out, with 43 percent arguing the United States did the right thing.

But back in December, 2003, a majority of respondents answered the same question with 63 percent saying the country did the right thing compared to 31 percent who would have stayed out. What a difference an unending war makes.

Growing public unease with the downward spiral of bombings, kidnappings, and executions in sectarian-torn in Iraq resonates with pollsters. A CNN poll conducted at the end of August found 61 percent opposed to the U.S. war in Iraq and a majority believing it had made both the United States and the world less safe from terrorism.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll also in August not only had 62 percent disapproving of the White House s actions in Iraq but 53 percent saying the number of U.S. military forces in Iraq should be decreased.

A USA Today/Gallup poll in July likewise reflected a 62 percent disapproval of the way the President is handling the war but a FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll taken between July 11-12 simply added insult to injury. The poll of 900 registered voters gave Democrats the edge over Republicans in response to the question: Which political party the Democrats or the Republicans do you think would do a better job on Iraq?

Still, an Associated Press/-Ipsos poll conducted July 10-12 indicated no such confidence in either Democrats or Republicans. Of 1,000 adults questioned nationwide, 64 percent said they disapproved of the way Democrats in Congress were handling Iraq and 61 percent said the same of Republicans.

Equally telling were the responses to the August ABC News/Washington Post poll that showed 64 percent did not think the Bush Administration had a clear plan for handling the situation in Iraq. The poll also found 66 percent did not think Democrats in Congress had a clear plan either.

But as the number of dead U.S. troops in Iraq rises past 2,600, a polling question with one of the most unsettling responses came in a July 21-25 survey.

After going from bad to worse, starting with the phony WMD rationale for pre-emptive war and culminating with Iraqi security forces unable or unwilling to contain the explosive violence overwhelming Baghdad morgues, pollsters asked Americans if it was worth it.

Do you think the result of the war with Iraq was worth the loss of American life and other costs of attacking Iraq, or not? The CBS News/New York Times poll reported 63 percent said Iraq was not worth the sacrifice, a stunning change from August 2003, when respondents were evenly divided on the matter.

So what do the dramatically changing public opinion polls on U.S. involvement in Iraq mean to the Bush White House? Nothing. The die is cast.

Aside from the President acknowledging how the loss of American life and other costs of the conflict have strained the national psyche his administration has vowed to stay its arbitrary course for an arbitrary amount of time.

Unless, of course, poll after poll portends a turning point in November.



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