Earlier this month, a CNN poll found that more Americans oppose the Afghanistan war than support it for (what I think was) the first time since the 2001 invasion. Now the ABC News and Washington Post have confirmed the finding. A narrow majority of 51 percent to 47 percent said the war was not worth fighting. Even so, President Obama has a deeper pocket of support on the issue than that finding might suggest: 60 percent of Americans support how he’s handling the war, even as he’s escalated it once this year and may do so a second time.
The public more decisively rejects that idea, however. A plurality of 45 percent support decreasing troop levels, with 24 percent favoring an increase and 27 percent wanting to keep levels where they are. That’s a big flip from January, when a plurality of 34 percent favored the troop increase that Obama promised during the campaign. A possible explanation: despite the onslaught of bad news — both U.S. troop deaths and civilian casualties are up over last year — 42 percent believe the United States is winning in Afghanistan, and may therefore support a gradual decrease in troop levels as a dividend. Similarly, a surprising 59 percent believe the United States can beat the Taliban; 61 percent think the U.S. can “provide effective economic development”; and 55 percent think the United States can “encourage the creation of an honest and effective government.”
And yet 64 percent of the public isn’t “confident” that the election tomorrow will produce a competent government.
Also, check out the partisan spread, which I think my colleague Dave Weigel may want to say some more about. Seventy percent of Democrats say the war isn’t worth it and 70 percent of Republicans say it is, with the same inverted percentage — 27 percent — saying it is/isn’t worth it, respectively.