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Poll: Bush's new Iraq strategy fails to rally public support
USA Today
By Susan Page, USA TODAY
January 15, 2007

WASHINGTON — President Bush's address to the nation last week failed to move public opinion in support of his plan to increase U.S. troop levels in Iraq and left Americans more pessimistic about the likely outcome of the war.

In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, more than 6 of 10 people back the idea of a non-binding congressional resolution expressing opposition to Bush's plan to commit an additional 21,500 U.S. troops to Iraq.

POLL RESULTS:  New Iraq policy

However, those surveyed are split, 47%-50%, over whether Congress should deny funding for the additional troops.

The telephone poll of 1,003 adults nationwide has a margin of error of +/—3 percentage points. The results were compared with a survey taken before the speech, on Jan. 5-7, of a similar sample. The movement on several key questions was within the error margin and therefore not considered statistically significant.

That's not surprising, says Charles Franklin, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who studies polling.

"We've had four years to think about the war," Franklin says. "This is not him making a speech about a policy that the public hasn't been debating for a long time. … At this point, it's very hard for a speech to make much difference."

White House spokesman Jeanie Mamo agrees. "As we made clear, one speech will not change public opinion," she says. "But as conditions improve in Iraq, so will the public's approval of the plan."

Among key findings:

•The central elements of Bush's "new way forward" in Iraq command limited public support. Now, 38% support a significant increase in U.S. troop levels, up from 36% before the speech.

Six in 10 have little or no confidence the Iraqi government will be able to take responsibility for handling security there by November, as Bush suggested. And by more than 2-1, those surveyed oppose his plan to send an additional $1 billion in economic aid.

•Americans feel more pessimistic about the war in the wake of Bush's speech. For the first time, a narrow plurality — 49%-47% — say the United States is likely to lose the war. Before the speech, they said by 50% to 46% that the United States was likely to win.

•The proportion who predict that political stability around the world will improve this year dropped by 9 points, to 32%.

•Those who say Bush has a "clear plan" for Iraq rose a bit, to 29% from 25%. Those who say congressional Democrats have a clear plan dropped to 21% from 25%.

Even so, by 51% to 36%, those surveyed have more confidence in congressional Democrats to handle Iraq than in the president.

•Optimism that the president and congressional Democrats would work together more closely this year plunged. Before the speech, Americans divided 50%-50% on that question. After the speech — and the almost uniform Democratic criticism of it — 62% of those surveyed say more cooperation isn't likely.

•Approval of Bush's handling of Iraq moved up a tick, from a low point of 26% before the speech to 28% now. His overall job-approval rating dipped 3 points, to 34%.
Posted 1/15/2007 2:03 PM ET
Updated 1/15/2007 9:19 PM ET E-mail | Save | Print |

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