The First Draft: Poll shows growing U.S. support for Afghan troop increase
If President Barack Obama opts to increase the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan next week, the decision could be underscored by something a bit unusual for his policies: growing U.S. public support.
Polling data have shown for a while now that most Americans don’t favor many of Obama’s policy positions, despite his enduring personal popularity.
A USA Today/Gallup poll depicts Obama battling headwinds on a number of fronts: Americans oppose the closing of Gitmo by more than a 2-to-1 margin; those against healthcare reform edge out those in favor by 5 percentage points; and most don’t want accused Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed tried in civilian court in New York City.
Afghanistan is no cakewalk, either. Public opinion is divided over the question of more troops and 55 percent of Americans disapprove of the president’s handling of the war up to now — a reversal of his 56 percent approval rating four months ago.
But the polling data, compiled Nov. 20-22, might also suggest a silver lining for the president as he nears an announcement that could send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
Less than half of Americans — 47 percent — favor a troop increase. But that’s up from 42 percent in a Nov. 5-8 survey.
Plus, the opposition is down: 39 percent of Americans now want the president to reduce the U.S. military footprint, vs. 44 percent earlier.
What hasn’t changed for Obama is that Republicans, not fellow Democrats, are his best buddies when it comes to increasing troops. Seventy-two percent of Republicans back a bigger U.S. force in Afghanistan, while 57 percent of Democrats say it’s time to start pulling out.
That could be important for Obama’s agenda in Congress as the 2010 election approaches and Democratic incumbents in tight races consider how they might fare with Democratic voters.
The USA Today/Gallup findings are based on telephone interviews with 1,017 adults. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.
Photo credits: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates); Reuters/Mathieu Belanger (U.S. soldier departs for Afghanistan); Reuters/Lucas Jackson (NYC crowd watches Obama)