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Americans Solidly Behind Iraq War By: Will Lester
Guardian Unlimited | Friday, December 19, 2003

Americans think the war in Iraq was the right decision by a 2-1 margin and are more inclined to approve of the job done by President Bush in foreign policy and terrorism following the capture of Saddam Hussein, an Associated Press poll found.

They remain wary, however, of the continuing deadly conflict in Iraq.

Saddam's capture appears to have given Bush's re-election prospects a boost: The poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs found that nearly half of respondents, 45 percent, said they would definitely support Bush's re-election, while 31 percent said they would definitely vote against him.

A month ago, people were evenly divided on that question, at 37 percent definitely for and 37 percent definitely against.

Two-thirds in the poll said they were confident the United States would capture or kill Osama bin Laden, who is believed to have orchestrated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. That's up from about half who felt that way in a poll in September.

``I'm confident we'll capture Osama bin Laden,'' said Jill Chiccino, a surgical technician from Wilmington, Del. ``I still don't feel that will solve terrorism, but it may help.''

More than six in 10 registered voters, 63 percent, said they approved of Bush's handling of foreign policy and terrorism, up from 54 percent who felt that way in early December in an AP-Ipsos poll. Bush's overall job approval among voters was 59 percent, up from 53 percent in early December but still far below his mid-70s war ratings from earlier this year.

Asked whether they thought Saddam's capture last weekend would cause violence against U.S. troops to increase, decrease or stay about the same, the biggest group, 47 percent, said they expected no change. A third, 33 percent, said violence would decrease and 19 percent said it would increase.

People were evenly divided on whether Saddam would get a fairer trial from an international tribunal or from Iraqi courts.

``Iraqi courts will be controlled and run by the United States,'' said attorney Adam Allen of Tampa, Fla.

Six in 10 thought the government was likely to be embarrassed by some of the information disclosed by Saddam in a trial. That was higher than the percentage of people who felt Saddam's disclosures would embarrass the governments of France, Russia, Britain or Germany.

Six in 10 said the capture made it more likely the United States would get help from longtime allies who opposed the Iraq war, but only 12 percent said they felt that was ``very likely.''

Overall support for Iraq policy was strong in the poll.

Seven in 10 said they believed the Iraq war was an important part of the campaign against terrorism rather than a distraction, as some critics have charged. And by more than a 2-1 margin, people said the war was the right decision and not a mistake.

Respondents were divided on whether the war in Iraq has made terrorist attacks in this country more likely, 40 percent, or less likely, 49 percent.

Almost two-thirds said they expected a terrorist attack on a major U.S. city, building or national landmark in the next year. But only 15 percent said they thought such an attack was very likely. In a different poll in May, almost half said a terrorist attack was very likely in the near future.

``I'm not expecting anything as bad as 9-11,'' said Indiana college student Deanna Moon. But she expected the United States would be attacked by people loyal to Saddam and bin Laden: ``There's going to be something here and there because their followers are so nutty.''

The AP-Ipsos poll of 1,001 adults was taken Monday through Wednesday and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, slightly larger for subgroups such as registered voters.

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