WASHINGTON: A solid majority of the US public favors giving the United Nations a greater role in determining the political future and reconstruction of Iraq in spite of President George W. Bush’s insistence that Washington continue to exercise virtually total control over both, according to a poll released just hours after Bush’s speech to the UN General Assembly.
Seventy percent of respondents said they support a “significant role” for the UN, while a majority of 51 percent said the US should be prepared even to give up some military control to the world body in order to get other countries to deploy troops to Iraq, according to the survey of 1500 people by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press.
The Bush administration has ruled out giving up any control over the military and security aspects of the occupation. In addition, a growing percentage of the public (44 percent) want the UN, as opposed to the US (22 percent), to have the most say in creating a new Iraqi government.
The center’s director, Andrew Kohout, attributed the results to growing concern over the rising costs and casualties of the US occupation in Iraq.
The poll found that overall public concern was significantly greater than last April when US troops took control of Baghdad. The new poll, which was conducted Sept. 17-22, is the latest of a series of polls that show eroding support for US actions in Iraq and eroding confidence in Bush’s plans there.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll taken shortly after his Sept. 7 speech to the nation about the situation in Iraq and the $87 billion he was asking to fund US operations there over the next year found that 55 percent of the public did not believe Bush had a clear plan, and a whopping 85 percent said they were concerned about Washington getting bogged down in a long and costly mission.
A Zogby poll released late last week found that Bush’s approval ratings had fallen to their lowest level since he became president, from 52 percent as recently as last month to 45 percent in mid-Sepetmber, compared to 54 percent who said they disapproved of his leadership.
Another CBS News poll released the same time found that his approval rating for handling Iraq had fallen to 46 percent, compared to 47 percent who said they flatly disapproved of his performance there. Moreover, two-thirds of respondents in the CBS poll said Congress should not approve the $87 billion request.
The new Pew poll found much the same level of opposition, with 59 percent of respondents saying they were opposed to Bush’s request, and 36 percent saying they supported it. Forty-three percent said they worry a great deal about whether the country could afford such a price tag, compared to 34 percent who admitted to similar concerns last April.
The poll found significant differences on this question between those who identified themselves as Democrats and Republicans and among Democrats. Two of three self-described “conservative Republicans” supported the request, while “moderate” and “liberal Republicans” were evenly split.
Over seven in ten Democrats, regardless of their ideological label, said they opposed the package, while all-important independents, who could decide next year’ selection, opposed it by a 57-37 percent margin.
Despite attacks on US forces, the public remains behind the mission, with nearly two-thirds agreeing that Washington should keep its troops in Iraq until a stable government is formed, while one-third said they should be withdrawn as soon as possible. In addition, 63 percent said Bush made the right decision in going to war, a figure that has held steady since early August.