March 15, 2007

Trends in Public Opinion about the War in Iraq, 2003-2007

by Scott Keeter

FigureFour years after the launch of the U.S. led invasion on March 19, 2003, public opinion about the war in Iraq has turned decidedly negative. Most Americans regret the decision to use military force. Majorities believe the war is not going well, and most say that the United States should bring its troops home as soon as possible. In contrast, when the war began in March 2003 and for quite some time thereafter, the U.S.-led invasion had strong backing from most Americans, and was seen as succeeding quite well.

The Pew Research Center has tracked the downward trend in public opinion over the past four years. The belief that the war was the right decision remained a majority or plurality position until the beginning of 2005, and thereafter opinion on this question remained divided until late in 2006. Support for keeping troops in Iraq remained the majority or plurality opinion for a good deal longer, but by late 2005 the number of people favoring withdrawal matched or exceeded the number saying U.S. troops should remain in Iraq.

Views of how the military effort is going have been more volatile, responding to events on the ground such as the capture of Saddam Hussein in late 2003 and the violence in Fallujah in the spring of 2004. But since October of last year, solid and growing majorities have said that the war is not going well.