Quagmire sinks in

Published January 19, 2005 7:49PM (EST)

A new poll from the LA Times finds that the American public's support for the war in Iraq has dropped to an all-time low. By a margin of 56-39, the poll's respondents thought that America's problems with Iraq were "not worth going to war over." Those who believed that invading Iraq had "stabilized the situation in the Middle East" were outnumbered nearly two to one by those who thought the opposite, and only 29 percent of those surveyed believed the U.S. was "winning the war." A plurality of 47 percent agreed with the statement that "the invasion of Iraq has alienated many in the Muslim world, which will increase the risk of terrorism against the United States."

With public opinion coalescing against the original decision to invade Iraq, the Times' poll also found pessimism prevailed regarding the upcoming Iraqi elections: 61 percent of respondents believed the elections would either "lead to more violence" or "not have much effect"; and a full 70 percent thought that Iraqis were "not ready to govern their own country" without American help.

But while those polled are down on the occupation, the Times observes, "Americans are almost evenly divided over how long U.S. forces should stay in Iraq: 47% said they would like to see most of the troops out within a year, while 49% say they could support a longer deployment -- including 37% who say the troops should remain 'as long as it takes' to secure and stabilize the country."

But only 4 percent of those polled said they would support sending more troops.

"'We are seeing lower support for the war, but I would have expected it to be even lower, given that the main rationale for the war -- the weapons of mass destruction -- turned out not to be there,' said John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State University who is an authority on wartime public opinion.

"'Support for this war is now lower than support for the Vietnam War was at the Tet offensive,' Mueller said, citing the 1968 battles that were a turning point in U.S. public opinion then. 'But in Vietnam [after Tet], the war continued for several years, and many people continued to support it through enormous casualties.'"

Meanwhile, many Americans think the president's $40 million inaugural bash is tacky. A full 75 percent said that "because of the costs of the war in Iraq and the tsunami disaster in Asia," the Bush administration should scale back the celebration.

By Jeff Horwitz

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