As New Talk of Sending More Troops to Iraq Builds, Poll Shows Most Americans Want a Pullout

By: E&P Staff

While many in the media considered Defense Secretary nominee Robert Gates’ admission on Tuesday that the U.S. is not winning in Iraq as a sign that he may be on the “dovish” side on that war, it could just as easily signal the need for more troops to turn things around (as Sen. John McCain has urged). So where does the public currently stand on the issue of withdrawals? Would they go for sending, say, 20,000 more troops instead of pulling more out? Or do they back the new Iraq Study Group’s report suggesting some sort of “phased” withdrawal plan?

A good indication arrives today with release of the first post-election poll from the much-respected Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), through its WorldPublicOpinion.

Their numbers show that 58% of Americans want a withdrawal of all U.S. troops on a set timeline, with 18% desiring this within six months, 25% within a year, 15% within two years.

If the Iraqi government heeded the wishes of most of its own citizens (as shown by polls in that country) and demanded a U.S. pulllout in one year, 77% of Americans — including nearly 3 in 4 Republicans — would back the idea. A poll of the Iraqi public conducted by WorldPublicOpinion in September 2006 found that 71% want U.S.-led forces to commit to withdraw within a year.

“The poll shows that the attitudes of the U.S. public are consistent with several key proposals reportedly endorsed by the Iraq Study Group,” the PIPA report states. This includes strong majority support for an international conference on Iraq and, separately, talking to the Syrians and Iranians.

?There is potential for finding some bipartisan consensus on the next steps for the U.S. to take in Iraq,? Steven Kull, the PIPA director, said.

Slightly better than 2 out of 3 believe the U.S. should declare that it does not plan to keep bases in Iraq indefinitely.

By an almost 2 to 1 margin (60% to 35%), respondents believe U.S. forces in Iraq are now more of a “provoking” than a “stablizing” force.

The poll was conducted Nov. 21-29 with a nationwide sample of 1,326 Americans.

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