Poll: 63% want all troops home by end of ’08

Americans overwhelmingly support congressional action to cap the number of U.S. troops in Iraq and set a timetable to bring them home by the end of next year, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds — tougher action than the non-binding resolution the House of Representatives is to begin debating today.
POLL RESULTS: Americans want troops home

While six in 10 oppose President Bush’s plan to use more troops to try to stabilize Iraq, a nearly equal number also oppose any effort to cut off funding for those additional forces.

“They’re saying the same thing they said in the 2006 elections — that they are against the current policy and they want something done about it,” says James Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University.

“They want Congress to debate it; they want Congress to focus on it; they want to bring this war to a close,” says Mark Blumenthal, a former Democratic pollster who is now editor of Pollster.com. “We don’t want to deny our armed services what they need to do their jobs, but we’d like to bring them home.”

Republicans remain supportive of the war; a majority of them oppose any congressional limits. Still, even among those who back Bush’s troop increase, nearly a third endorse the timetable for pulling out.

The House is to begin three days of debate today on a resolution that vows to “support and protect” U.S. troops and then “disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush … to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.”

A vote is likely Friday.

The USA TODAY poll, taken Friday through Sunday, finds most Americans paying close attention to the unfolding debate, the first on the war since Democrats won control of Congress in November.

Among the findings:

•There is majority support for congressional action on Iraq: 51% back a non-binding resolution, 57% a cap on troop levels and 63% a timetable to withdraw all U.S. troops by the end of 2008. However, 58% oppose denying funding for the additional troops.

•The Senate’s failure to act last week rankled nearly two-thirds of those surveyed. By 51%-19%, they blamed Republicans. In a party-line vote, Senate Republicans refused to cut off debate and let action proceed on a resolution opposing the troop increase.

•Seven of 10 say their representative’s vote on the war will affect their vote in the next congressional election; more than four in 10 call it a major factor. However, nearly two-thirds aren’t sure where their representative stands on the issue.

•Neither side gets high approval ratings. Just 30% approve of the way congressional Democrats are handling Iraq; 27% approve of congressional Republicans.

Bush’s overall approval rating is 37%, up 5 percentage points from early February.