November 23, 2011

Views of the Iraq War

48 vs. 46

While a majority of Americans (56%) believe that the U.S. has mostly succeeded in achieving its goals in Iraq, the public is divided when asked if the use of military force was the correct decision; 48% say it was the right decision and 46% say it was the wrong decision.

When the war in Iraq began in March 2003, more than seven-in-ten Americans (73%) said using force was the right decision. The share of the public expressing this view dipped to less than 50% the first time in October 2004, when 46% said using force was the right decision; it reached its low — 36% — in December 2007. The percentage has hovered at around 40% until a survey conducted Nov. 9-14 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that 48% of the public said that U.S. military action was the right decision; 46% said it was the wrong decision and 6% expressed no opinion.

Since the start of the war, there has been a wide partisan gap on the question of using force in Iraq. In March 2003, with major combat operations ongoing, the gap was substantial: 93% of Republicans supported the decision to use force, compared with 66% of independents and 59% of Democrats. This gap persisted through the first year of the year. Across all surveys conducted in 2003, 90% of Republicans backed the decision to use force, compared with 66% of independents and 50% of Democrats.

Over the ensuing years, support for the war has plummeted among independents and Democrats plummeted, while Republicans have remained largely supportive. In surveys conducted in 2008 — the last year of George W. Bush’s presidency — just 17% of Democrats said it was the right decision to take military action in Iraq, compared with 73% of Republicans. Since President Obama took office, support for the decision to go to war in Iraq has increased among Democrats.

However, Americans are ready to move on — 56% believe that the U.S. has mostly accomplished its goals in Iraq, and three-quarters of the public support Obama’s decision to withdraw all U.S. combat troops by the end of 2011. Read More