Send To Printer Email to Friend

Poll: Washington Too Optimistic Entering Iraq War
Sun Mar 30, 5:55 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than half of Americans believe the U.S. government was too optimistic in its assessments of the probable course of the war in Iraq and one in three would not support the war if more than 500 U.S. troops were to die, according to a poll released on Sunday.

The Time/CNN poll also suggested Americans are resigned to a long conflict, with 46% saying they expect the war to last from four months to more than a year. Another 32% expect the war to last one to three months, while only 13% expect it to be over in two to four weeks.

The telephone poll of 1,014 adults, taken on March 27 by Harris Interactive, showed 55% believe Washington was overly optimistic in its assessments.

U.S. political leaders, including Vice President Dick Cheney, were quoted widely in the weeks leading up to the war as saying the Iraqi regime would collapse quickly in the face of overwhelming U.S. force.

With U.S. casualties mounting, the poll also suggests the collective stomach for American casualties is limited.

While 59% respondents say they would support a war in which 500 U.S. troops died, support falls to just 47% and opposition to the war rises to 41% if the U.S. death toll rises to 1,000.

Only 34% would support the war if as many as 5,000 Americans die, with 50% opposed if that happens. More than 50,000 American troops died in the Vietnam War.

Perhaps surprising to many abroad, a plurality of Americans would not support a war in which 5,000 Iraqi civilians were to die. In that event, opposition to the war rises to 47%, against 40% in support.

Even 1,000 Iraqi civilian deaths is too high a price to pay for many Americans, with just 50% willing to support such a war and 39% opposed under those circumstances.

While Americans would take a dim view of the use of chemical weapons against U.S. forces, a narrow majority of 51% say the United States would not be justified in using battlefield nuclear weapons against Iraqi soldiers deploying chemical arms. Some 42% would support such a move.

Still, support for President Bush appears to remain strong, with 67% of respondents saying they have a favorable impression of the president, against 30% who say they hold an unfavorable view of Bush.

Americans are, finally, largely united in their definition of a "victory" in Iraq: Fully 62% would not view simply removing Saddam Hussein from power as a victory. He must be captured or killed, they say, for the U.S. to declare victory.

The poll, which Time/CNN did not compare to previous polling, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1%