Gallup poll finds public highly supportive of war WAR IN THE GULF

January 20, 1991|By Gallup Poll Organization

The initial reaction of Americans to the Persian Gulf war continues to be highly supportive.

Eight out of 10 Americans think the United States did the right thing by initiating the hostilities on Wednesday, and support for President Bush is at all-time high levels. Most Americans think we are winning the war, more than 90 percent approve of the job being done by the U.S. military, and half think that the United States and its allies are doing better than expected.

Reflecting this upbeat mood, the war seems also to have introduced an extraordinary turnaround in America's satisfaction with the way things are going in the country.

Still, there is concern that the war may spread, a strong sense of resignation that U.S. and allied ground troops will eventually have to be introduced in order to win, and a continuing expectation that hundreds if not thousands of Americans will die.

These and other results are based on the latest nationwide Gallup Poll, conducted with 766 Americans on Thursday and Friday.

From the moment the war was announced Wednesday night, Americans have been remarkably supportive of the action and of Mr. Bush's leadership. Support jumped to the 80 percent level on Wednesday evening and remained there through Thursday and Friday. Eighty-two percent of Americans now approve of the U.S. decision to begin military action, and 86 percent approve of the way Mr. Bush is handling the situation.

Overall job approval for Mr. Bush, is now at 82 percent. Job approval levels at the 80 percent-plus range are rare for all modern U.S. presidents: Other than Mr. Bush, only John F. Kennedy has broken the 80 percent barrier -- in 1962, in response to U.S. resistance to the Soviet introduction of missiles into Cuba.

More than nine out of 10 Americans approve of the job being done by the U.S. military. More than seven out of 10 (73 percent) Americans think that America and its allies are winning the war.

Still, there are signs of deeper concerns and worry. Americans are now more likely to think that the war will last at least several weeks than they were immediately after the war began Wednesday night, and less likely to think it will last only a few days. There is continuing concern that the war will spread.

However, even though all of these interviews were conducted after the first news reports of Iraqi missile attacks on Israel Thursday evening, this concern has dropped from pre-war measures earlier in January. About two-thirds of Americans are somewhat or very worried that the conflict will develop into a larger war that could spread throughout the region and other parts of the world, down from three-quarters on the same measure last weekend.

Additionally, despite early reports of the success of U.S. and allied air and missile attacks, there is little expectation that the war can be won without the involvement of ground troops. Seventy-nine percent of Americans say that U.S. and allied ground troops will eventually need to be involved to win the war.

Americans also don't necessarily think we will get off lightly in terms of casualties. While 37 percent think that U.S. deaths will be several hundred or less, another 31 percent think that U.S. deaths will be in the thousands.

Although seemingly paradoxical, the start of war immediately doubled the number of Americans who say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the United States, and dropped the number who are dissatisfied in half.

This phenomenon may rise from several factors: The war may be taking Americans' minds off the recession, or it may simply be that the military response in the Persian Gulf is helping restore Americans' confidence in the United States as a great nation.

Whatever the reason, the numbers themselves are remarkable. In the first week of January, only 32 percent of Americans were satisfied with the way things were going in the United States, with 61 percent dissatisfied. Now, 62 percent are satisfied and only 33 percent dissatisfied.

The results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 766 adults, 18 and older, conducted between Jan. 17 and 18, 1991. For results based on samples of this size, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the error attributable to sampling and other random effects could be plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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