U.S. troops line up to board a bus as they begin their journey home at Al Asad… (Khalid Mohammed / Associated…)
In a presidential race in which the importance of foreign affairs has been eclipsed by the domestic economy, President Obama has scored a popular success with his pledge to withdraw nearly all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year, according to the Gallup poll released Wednesday.
The poll found that Americans overwhelmingly approved of bringing the troops home by 75% to 21%. Those results are consistent with polls showing Americans eager to wind down the Iraq war, which began with a U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. Last August, about 60% of Americans said they opposed renewing U.S. combat operations even if the Iraqis were unable to keep a lid on violence.
The Iraq war was the dominant foreign policy issue in both the 2004 and 2008 election cycles. Americans put it at the top of the nation’s problems in each month for nearly four years until January 2008, when the full impact of a tanking economy and related economic issues took over. About 1% now name it as the nation’s most important problem, according to Gallup.
Still, it provides one convenient window into how Democrats and Republicans see the United States on the world stage, a lesser issue than the economy, but still a possible factor in the 2012 election. As expected, Americans split politically over Obama’s actions in announcing the final withdrawal of troops, except for a small force of U.S. troops serving as Embassy guards.
The Obama administration has cast the withdrawal as the fulfillment of Obama’s 2008 campaign promises to “responsibly” end the Iraq war. Those calling themselves Democrats approved of the decision 96% to 2%, according to the poll.
Republicans, however, disapproved of the withdrawal by 52% to 43%. Many Republican presidential candidates, including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and businessman Herman Cain, the leaders in most polls for the GOP nomination, have questioned the decision, arguing it showed a lack of leadership on Obama’s part since he was unable to successfully negotiate with Iraqi leaders for an extension of the U.S. troops’ presence. The GOP argument is that a contingent of American troops should have stayed on, but that would have required permission from Iraq, which refused to grant the needed immunity.
Independent voters approved of Obama’s actions by 77% to 17%.
The results are based on telephone interviews with 992 adults on Oct. 29 and 30th. The margin of error is plus or minus four percentage points.