June 30, 2009 was the official deadline for U.S. combat troops to be out of Iraqi cities. At the same time two public opinion polls were released of Americans on what they thought about Iraq. CBS News and the New York Times did one, and the other was by Rasmussen. The former found that a majority of Americans thought that things were going well in Iraq, while the later reported that very few people in the U.S. feel that the war is over, but a majority is hoping that President Obama brings home the troops by the end of his term in 2012.
The CBS News/New York Times poll was conducted from June 12 to 16, 2009 and just focused on how people thought the U.S. was doing in Iraq. 62% replied that the U.S. was doing well. This was actually lower than the last two times this question was asked back in April and March 2009. In April 71% said America was doing well, and 64% responded that way in March. The drop in the polling numbers in June might have been caused by the spate of bombings and violence in Iraq in that month on the eve of the withdrawal.
The public first began feeling positive about Iraq in September 2008 when 52% responded that things were good there. The low point was in June 2007 when 77% said the war was going badly. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents all had positive views as well. 71% of Republicans felt things were going good, compared to 63% for Democrats, and 54% for Independents.
How Are Things Going For The U.S. In Iraq? 6/09 4/09 3/09 12/08 9/08 6/07 5/03 Well 62% 71% 64% 56% 52% 22% 72% Bad 31% 24% 33% 39% 46% 77% 24%
The Rasmussen survey focused upon whether the public felt that the war was ending or not, the effect of the withdrawal on Iraq, and when they felt the troops would be home. Only 16% said the war was finished, while 64% said it wasn't, and 20% were not sure. When asked how they felt security in Iraq's cities would be in the future, 81% said that it was likely or somewhat likely that they would turn violent. 44% said they were very likely to go bad. When asked what the U.S. should do if that happens, only 17% said that American forces should be sent back in to help. 68% said that the Iraqis should handle it, while 15% were not sure. Respondents were also split on what Iraq would be like in the next 6 months. 38% said it would get better, 25% said it would get worse, and 24% said Iraq would stay about the same.
There were two questions about the final U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as well. When asked would America be out by December 2011, 48% said they were confident or very confident that would happen, compared to 46% who said they were not. When asked about a longer timeline, 66% said it was likely or somewhat likely that President Obama would have combat troops out by the time his first term ended in 2012. 59% went on to say that it was more important to get the troops out than finish the job in Iraq.
Those surveyed also seemed to have been keeping up with recent events. 80% said they had been following the news on the withdrawal from the cities, while only 4% said they had not kept up with the story at all.
The Surge and the drop in violence can be attributed with the change in American attitudes about Iraq. Beforehand, the sectarian war and high U.S. casualties turned most of the public against the war. The dramatic drop in deaths from 2008 to the present, has the U.S. back to thinking optimistically about the future of the conflict. The main priority however, is to get the combat troops out as soon as possible. It will be interesting to see how the U.S. public feels if President Obama decides to keep a large advisory force in Iraq after the 2011 deadline for withdrawal. Perhaps they will be satisfied with most troops coming home, but then again since so many feel that Iraq needs to deal with its own problems, they might be upset with a residual force staying behind.
De Pinto, Jennifer, "Polls Show Most Say Things Are Going Well in Iraq," CBS News, 6/30/09
Rasmussen Reports, "64% Say War in Iraq Is Not Over Yet," 7/1/09