Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Most Swing Voters Favor Afghan Troop Withdrawal

Support for U.S. Troop Presence Hits New Low


Public support for maintaining U.S. forces in Afghanistan has reached a new low. And as the general election campaign begins, swing voters, by nearly two-to-one, favor removing U.S. troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of voters who say they are certain to support Barack Obama in the general election favor a rapid U.S. troop withdrawal. But support for a troop pullout is nearly as extensive (59%) among swing voters — those who are either undecided in their general election preferences, lean toward a candidate or say they may still change their minds. Swing voters make up nearly a quarter (23%) of all registered voters.

Voters who express certainty about voting for Mitt Romney in the fall are divided over what to do about U.S. troops in Afghanistan: 48% favor removing them as soon as possible, while 46% support maintaining U.S. forces there until the situation has stabilized.

The latest survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted April 4-15, 2012 among 1,494 adults, including 1,164 registered voters, finds that public support for keeping troops in Afghanistan has reached a new low.

Just 32% of the public now says that the U.S. should keep troops in Afghanistan until the situation there has stabilized, while 60% favor removing the troops as soon as possible. In May 2011, the public was evenly divided over removing U.S. troops from Afghanistan (48% remove troops vs. 47% keep troops there).

Support for keeping U.S. forces in Afghanistan has declined over the past year among Republicans, Democrats and independents. For the first time in a Pew Research Center survey, as many Republicans (48%) favor removing U.S. forces from Afghanistan as soon as possible as support keeping the troops there until the situation is stabilized (45%).

As recently as a month ago, a majority of Republicans (53%) said they favored staying in Afghanistan until the situation stabilized, while 41% favored a troop withdrawal.

Currently, 66% of Democrats and 62% of independents say the U.S. should

remove troops as soon as possible, while about three-in-ten (29%) in each group favors keeping forces in Afghanistan.

The proportion of independents who favor a troop pullout has increased 11 points since last May (from 51%) immediately after the killing of Osama bin Laden. Over this period, the percentage of Democrats favoring a troop withdrawal has increased 16 points (from 50% in May)

Growing support for a troop pullout comes as public assessments of the war effort have reached their lowest point since the fall of 2009. Currently, just 38% say the military effort is going very or fairly well, while almost half (49%) say that it is going not too or not at all well. Just a month ago, about half (51%) said that things were going very or fairly well there.

Among partisans, just four-in-ten Democrats (41%) and Republicans (40%) offer positive assessments of the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan, while about half offer negative assessments. Last month, majorities of Democrats (56%) and Republicans (52%) said the military effort was going well.

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