With President Barack Obama prepared to announce the deployment of roughly 30,000 additional troops to the war in Afghanistan tonight in a speech at West Point, he will address a nation that has grown more negative in its views toward the eight-year war. While a majority (56%) continues to say the initial use of force in Afghanistan was the right decision, that is down eight points from January when 64% approved of the initial use of force. A third of Americans now say going to war in Afghanistan was the wrong decision, up from 25% in January. The fall in support is evident across most political and demographic groups, though Republicans remain more likely than Democrats to endorse the initial use of force. Americans also increasingly see the war as going poorly. Fully 57% now say the military effort in Afghanistan is going not too well or not at all well, up from 45% in January. According to the same November survey, Obama’s job approval on Afghanistan has also suffered. Nearly half of Americans (49%) disapprove of his handling of the war, up from a third in July. The increasing disapproval has come from Republican and independents; a majority of Democrats (54%) continue to support the president on the war. Yet, despite the growing negativity, Americans remain divided over what to do next — 40% say the number of troops in Afghanistan should be decreased, 32% say the number should be increased and 19% favor keeping troop levels as they are now. Read More

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Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.