Poll Shows Split Views on Iraq War

Times Staff Writer

Members of the military and their families strongly approved of the way President Bush was currently dealing with Iraq, but nearly the same percentage said that his administration had underestimated the number of troops needed there, a poll of servicemen and women has found.

The University of Pennsylvania’s National Annenberg Election Survey showed that 63% said they liked Bush’s handling of the war, and 62% thought that more U.S. troops were needed in Iraq to establish peace. And respondents said the war has placed too much of a burden on inadequately trained and equipped National Guard and reserve forces, who make up about half of the troops fighting in Iraq.

Of 655 respondents surveyed in every state, 56% of service members and 64% of military family members said the Guard and reserves had borne too much of the weight of the war and that active duty forces should have been expanded.

While 38% said that Guard and reserve forces had been properly trained and equipped for the mission, 42% said they had not.

Most of those polled were in favor of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq until stability was established: 73% wanted soldiers to remain there and 23% wanted to bring troops home as soon as possible.


The respondents disagreed with the Pentagon policy of barring media coverage of flag-draped coffins being returned to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. About half of those surveyed, 51%, said allowing photographs would increase respect for the sacrifices made by the military, while 8% said it would reduce respect.

The respondents insisted on punishment for those involved with abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the U.S.-run prison outside Baghdad. Eighty percent said the U.S. soldiers who abused the Iraqis should be punished; 50% said higher-level commanders in Iraq should be held accountable, and 29% wanted civilians in the Pentagon penalized.

“The military clearly supports the mission, the reasons for going to war and Bush’s handling of it, but has serious criticisms of how the war has been managed,” said Adam Clymer, political director of the survey.

More than four in 10 -- 43% -- said they were Republicans, while 19% called themselves Democrats and 27% independents, which could help explain the more favorable view of Bush than that among the population in general.

Despite their general optimism about the direction the nation is heading, respondents showed some concern about their own futures.

Less than a third, 30%, said they thought veterans were getting the healthcare they had been promised. And although 57% said that Pentagon-ordered extensions of service beyond enlistment dates were proper, 39% said they were not.

Respondents were nearly split on attitudes toward gays. When asked if gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military, 42% said yes, 50% said no.

On the issue of women in the service, those polled overwhelmingly approved of the work of women in the armed forces, with 74% saying that women performed as well as men.

The poll was conducted between Sept. 22 and Oct. 5, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Respondents included 172 active duty service members, 199 members of the National Guard or Reserve, and 284 military family members. Of troops surveyed, 170 served in the Iraq or Afghanistan regions.