In a recently released poll, Americans by an almost 2 to 1 margin blame the current turmoil in Iraq more on former president George W. Bush than the White House’s current occupant, though giving Obama low marks for his handling of the crisis.
In the survey, conducted between June 24 -30, Quinnipiac University contacted 1,446 registered voters and asked them point blank: “Who do you blame more for the situation in Iraq, President Obama or former President George W. Bush?” Of those polled, 51 percent said the blame rested with the 43rd president, while only 27 percent said Obama is more at fault. In military households, a plurality — 44 percent — still said that Bush is more at fault. Voters also by a sizable margin — 58 to 37 percent — believe that going to war with Iraq in 2003 in the first place was a bad idea.
The result of these questions, however, were highly partisan in nature. On the first question, 54 percent of Republicans inquired preferred to say Obama’s policies are behind the current situation; only five percent of Democrats said the same. And on launching the war in the first place, 56 percent of GOP members surveyed still approve of the war, while 80 percent of Democrats remain opposed.
Despite protestations from conservatives, Americans also back Obama’s decision to withdraw all troops from Iraq at the end of 2011. 58 percent of respondents agree that pulling troops was the right thing, compared to 37 percent who think it was a mistake. Again, the survey breaks down along partisan lines, with a full 90 percent of Democrats supporting the decision, compared to 62 percent of Republicans who believe it was a mistake. Compared to a similar question in late 2011, Quinnipiac found that slightly fewer Americans support the pull out, showing a 16 point drop over the years.
A slight plurality also disagree with the notion that the U.S. should carry out airstrikes in Iraq, an option that remains on the table as the Obama administration determines how best to aid Iraq in pushing back militants allied with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). When asked if the U.S. should use piloted aircraft, remotely piloted aircraft or cruise missiles, or both, just two percent advocated strikes using just fighter jets, while 20 percent were in favor of solely using drone strikes and missile launches. A full 39 percent said that neither option should be used, slightly edging out the 30 percent who called for both.
The survey also came to a similar conclusion as a previous Public Policy Polling (PPP) poll on the prospect of placing troops on the ground in Iraq. In PPP’s findings, 74 percent of Americans were opposed to the idea of sending in ground troops to help fight against ISIS. Several weeks later, Quinnipiac’s survey says that 63 percent of voters — including 56 percent of Republicans — are against the idea of ground combat troops to help defeat the Islamic militants.
And while Republican hawks like Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) continue to draw comparisons between the Iraq withdrawal and the pending pullout of combat troops in Afghanistan, Americans want Obama to stay the course on ending the longest war in American history. Forty-six percent of Americans, the survey finds, think that based on what they’ve heard the troop withdrawal rate from Afghanistan is “about right.”
While some of these numbers will be comforting for the White House, the poll isn’t all good news. When asked if they approve or disapprove of the way that Obama is handling the current Iraq crisis, a full 55 percent thought the effort was being mismanaged. Likewise, voters believe that Obama’s foreign policy-making skills are either on par or worse than those of Bush: 25 percent believe the former, while 39 percent believe the latter.
Meanwhile in Iraq, while the Iraqi military has made some gains against ISIS, the political crisis that has been running parralel to the takeover of several cities and towns continues. Iraq’s parliament, which was meant to form a new government after its most recent elections last week, has opted instead to adjourn until August. In the meantime, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s caretaker government is still in place, despite increasing calls for the Shiite leader to step down from his role to help facilitate a reconciliation with Iraq’s Sunni population. (HT: TPM)