Poll shows opposition to troop rise in Iraq

January 18, 2007|By Ronald Brownstein | Ronald Brownstein,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- A commanding majority of Americans oppose President Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq and just over half the country wants Congress to block the move, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has found.

As he seeks to chart a new course in Iraq, Bush also faces pervasive resistance and skepticism toward the U.S. commitment - more than three-fifths of those surveyed said the war was not worth fighting and only one-third approved of his handling of the conflict.

And in a striking measure of Bush's declining credibility, half said they believed he deliberately misled the U.S. in making his case for invading Iraq.

On all three questions, these are Bush's weakest showings in a Times Poll.

Asked about Bush's recent announcement that he would dispatch an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq, three-fifths said they opposed the move; just over one-third backed it.

Even Bush's political base, a source of support throughout his presidency, showed signs of cracking: about one-fourth of Republicans said they do not believe the war was worth fighting and a roughly equal number opposed the troop increase.

The findings drive home the extent to which Iraq has politically weakened Bush, whose re-election just over two years ago stirred dreams among his advisers of an enduring GOP electoral majority in Washington.

For Bush, the public's loss of faith in the war's direction, his handling of the conflict and his credibility all make it more difficult for him to rally support for the new direction that he argues is necessary to turn the tide.

The Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll, supervised by Times Polling Director Susan Pinkus, surveyed 1,344 adults nationwide by telephone Saturday through Tuesday. It has a margin of sampling error of three percentage points.

With attitudes about Iraq weighing heavily against him, Bush's overall job approval rating stood at 39 percent, with 59 percent disapproving. Those figures are comparable to what had been Bush's worst showing in a Times Poll, last winter.

On Iraq, only 33 percent approved of Bush's handling of the war; 65 percent disapproved.

The sole ray of light for Bush in the poll might be signs of public doubt about how Congress should respond to his plans on Iraq. Despite widespread opposition to the troop escalation, Americans divide more closely on whether lawmakers should try to stop it.

The public clearly wants Congress to address the issue in some way: 45 percent of those polled said Iraq should be Capitol Hill's first priority, more than double the next closest issue (dealing with health care, 20 percent).

A narrow majority - 51 percent - want Congress to try to block Bush from sending more troops to Iraq. Of those, 25 percent said lawmakers should deny funding for the increase and 26 percent said they should find other legislative measures to stop him. Forty-one percent said Congress should not attempt to stop Bush, with the rest unsure.

Ronald Brownstein writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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